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Mental Space: Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a serious illness. And sadly, they are all too common in college-aged individuals across the United States. Most people think of young women and teenage girls when they think about eating disorders, but men and non-binary individuals suffer from them as well.

Eating disorders are a form of mental illness that stems from societal beauty standards and a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. There are many forms of eating disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V). Today, I will cover the two most common eating disorders using the DSM-V as a source for their symptoms and diagnostic criteria.

The first eating disorder I would like to cover is anorexia nervosa. Anorexia, as defined by dictionary.com, means “loss of appetite and inability to eat.” In psychiatry and psychology, it is a disorder in which individuals restrict what they eat and sometimes purge in order to lose weight to achieve the “ideal” body image. According to the DSM-V, there are two types of Anorexia Nervosa:

Restricting – “During the last 3 months, the individual has not engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas). This subtype describes presentations in which weight loss is accomplished primarily through dieting, fasting, and/or excessive exercise”; and

Binge Eating/Purging – “During the last 3 months, the individual has engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

There is crossover between the two types listed above, specifically with individuals purging after only eating a small amount of food. This is dangerous to the individual as it can lead to heart failure, muscle deterioration and unhealthy weight loss. Individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa lose weight rapidly from not eating enough nutrients and calories, and potentially purging. It is, of course, important to know the signs of anorexia nervosa for any and all individuals. If you notice a friend isn’t eating much at dinner for a while and that they’re exercising constantly, try talking to them, asking if they’re okay or refer them to the Tiger Counseling Center.

The second eating disorder I want to talk about is bulimia nervosa. Bulimia has similar symptoms of anorexia nervosa subtype two: “Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most individuals would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances; [and]

2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.

Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa,” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Bulimia nervosa is as dangerous as anorexia nervosa, as it includes binge eating and purging to lose a significant amount of weight. However, it can be less noticeable than anorexia nervosa, for the individual is eating more than someone with anorexia. This can potentially make bulimia nervosa more dangerous, as it can go unnoticed for longer periods of time. However, it can cause tooth decay and damage to the throat if the individual affected is inducing vomiting.

All eating disorders are dangerous, make no mistake in thinking they are harmless. Eating disorders can lead to extremely low weight and other health conditions, such as organ failure. Ultimately, they can lead to hospitalizations and even death in affected individuals. If you are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder, contact the Tiger Counseling Center at (937) 327-7946 or email counseling@wittenberg.edu. You can also contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) 24 hours a day by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Amber Gausshttps://writers.work/ambergauss
Amber Gauss is a Psychology and Russian Language double major. She has been part of staff since August 2019. She writes about Mental Health in her column Mental Space.

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