Saturday, June 13, 2009
What it is and advice on how to deal with it .
Identifying the symptoms and getting help .
Up to ten per cent of people with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia are male, and the cause is unknown. Researchers have suggested that they stem from the pressures of a weight-conscious western society, family or relationship problems, and physical and neurological changes in susceptible people. It seems likely that several factors are at work.
One of the main problems in eating disorders is 'body image disturbance' or dysmorphia. The illnesses cause a person to have a very inaccurate perception of their own shape and body weight.
Asked to stand beside a door, for example, a man with anorexia might think he 'blocks out' the whole doorway because he is so overweight; looking at his thin forearm and bony hand, he might think he is covered in unsightly fat.
Research has suggested that male bodybuilders might have similar kinds of body image disturbance to that experienced by people with anorexia.
To confirm the diagnosis, the patient must, mistakenly, think they're too heavy, and be dieting to lose weight. People with anorexia usually have a body mass index of less than 17.5.
Other ways of trying to lose weight include:
extreme 'fat-free' diets
making yourself sick after meals
purging with laxative and diuretic drugs
Some people with diabetes or thyroid problems manipulate their medication to promote weight loss.
Although anorexia means 'loss of appetite', people with anorexia are often very hungry - and may have a strong interest in watching others eat, or in helping to prepare their food.
Bulimia shares the body image disturbance of anorexia, but people with this condition are more likely to be of normal weight, and binge eating and purging is more of a problem than dieting.
Living with an eating disorder
The consequences are serious. Not only is it difficult to maintain a normal social life, but the illness often causes intense family upset, and it's not easy to remain fit and alert at work.
The body's systems have to work hard to adjust to the changed metabolism caused by abnormal diet, and dangerous changes can occur - particularly when people are making themselves vomit.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists factsheet lists some common problems.
How to get help
Treatment needs to be long term, and is best carried out by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Some drugs, such as 'SSRI' antidepressants can help, particularly regulating binge eating.
Sometimes negative or worrying thoughts can take over.
It's the curse of our modern age, so how do you deal with it? Suicide
What are the risk factors?
Some ways to cope with stress:
Accept offers of practical help
Do one thing at a time - don't keep piling stress on stress
Know your own limits - don't be too competitive or expect too much of yourself
Talk to someone
Let off steam in a way that causes no harm (shout, scream or hit a pillow)
Walk away from stressful situations
Try to spend time with people who are rewarding rather than critical and judgmental
Practise slow breathing using the lower part of the lungs
Use relaxation techniques.
One response to stress can be anger. Find out more about anger management.