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Campus Health Service

Are you concerned about someone's eating habits?

Have you noticed the following symptoms?

  • Strict rules to kinds of food they are prepared to eat
  • Rules and rituals before eating meals
  • Skipping meals

These are typical anorexia symptoms.
Or...

  • Overwhelming urge to overeat
  • Persistent concern with body weight and shape,
  • Binge eating, purging by either vomiting/ laxatives/diuretics

These are typical bulimia symptoms

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are extreme expressions of a range of weight issues experienced by both men and women. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are serious emotional disorders that have life-threatening consequences if left unrecognized and untreated. "Eating " refers to a set of eating habits, weight management practices and attitudes about weight and body shape, resulting in a "disorder." " Disorder" manifests in loss of self-control, behavioral inefficiency, obsession, anxiety, guilt, alienation from self and others, physiological imbalances that are potentially life threatening.

Due to an intense and irrational fear of body fat and weight gain these diseases may manifest as follows:

Anorexia

  • Starts between 14 and 18 years old.
  • Dissatisfied with weight and shape. Noticeable weight loss (15% less below expected for height/age)
  • Unusual eating habits (i.e. cutting food in tiny pieces, picking at food.)
  • Cooking for others, but not eating it themselves.
  • Fatigue
  • Depression, irritability, mood swings. Perfectionistic attitude weight Body effects include muscle weakness; always feeling cold, irregular menses/Amenorrhoea, fainting spells/dizziness, paleness and headaches.
  • Wearing of layered and baggy clothes to hide weight loss
  • Feelings of guilt and shame about eating.
  • Excessive exercise, frequent weight checks.
  • Substance abuse eg diuretics, laxatives

Bulimia

  • Starts late teens to early 20s.
  • Dissatisfied with weight/shape. Weight fluctuations.
  • Fasting, secretive eating (food disappearing), binging.
  • Avoiding restaurants, social events or planned meals.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depression, mood swings, severe self-criticism, self-worth determined by weight Body effects include muscle weakness, swollen glands, broken blood vessels (eyes and throat), tooth decay, sore throat and irregular heartbeat
  • Bathroom visits after eating.
  • Harsh exercise regimes.
  • Substance abuse eg Ipecac, laxatives and diuretics.

Management of these conditions

  • Prevention

This is any systematic attempt to change the circumstances that promote, sustain, or intensify problems such as eating disorders. These may include primary prevention programmes to target the disorder before it begins, or secondary prevention. That involves education re the warning signs, ways to reach people in distress and referral to sources of treatment.

  • Medical treatment

There is no quick and easy solution. Hospitalization may occur if the patient's eating habit is severely affecting her health. To manage this problem successfully relatives and therapists need to work closely together.