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Health & Safety

The Dangerous Health Trend: Eating Disorders

Skeleton on TreadmillAn eating disorder is a terrible disease that takes an extreme emotional and physical toll on the sufferer and the people closest to the sufferer. There are many different forms of eating disorders, but they all have one thing in common: they leave the sufferer feeling lonely, helpless and depressed as well as negatively impacting their physical health and well being. 

Eating disorders are increasingly common and are increasingly common reasons for denying affordable health insurance or charging highest rates on individual health insurance policies. People with group insurance usually don't see as steep a rise in insurance premiums as those purchasing individual coverage.

One reason for higher premiums is the increased likelihood a person suffering from eating disorders will eventually require long term care in a hospital or nursing facility. Another concern is the difficulty in finding cheap term life insurance, too, since eating disorders can prove lethal even though it's a disorder that strikes younger people in the prime of life.

Unfortunately, an affordable medical or life insurance policy isn't anything at all like the cheap liability auto insurance that suffices for a car but there's no need to give up the quest. For best rates and best coverage, know as much as possible about the eating disorder(s) in question so you'll understand all the negotiations that occur between you, the insured, and your insurance provider.

Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is an emotional disease where the sufferer has an extreme fear of gaining weight. A person with anorexia will do just about anything to avoid gaining weight and maintain an extremely low weight. Even when an anorexic is extremely thin and at an unhealthy weight, they will still see themselves as fat and continue their destructive behaviors.

A person with anorexia will typically skip meals or make excuses to not eat, even though many seem to be preoccupied with food. Anorexics tend to have a distorted perception of themselves, may show low self esteem and depression.

Some of the physical signs may be harder to notice, and may not appear until the person is very far into their disease. One of the first signs is extreme weight loss. Some other signs and symptoms to look for are thinning hair, dry skin, cold hands and feet, fatigue, low blood pressure, missing menstrual periods, bloated/upset stomach, abnormal heart rhythms and osteoporosis.

  • Anorexia Nervosa: In depth look at anorexia by the University of Maryland Medical Center

Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia in that those who suffer from it have an extreme fear of gaining weight. However, rather than starve themselves, they eat a lot of food very quickly and then afterwards engage in purging rituals. Bulimics may purge the food they eat by making themselves throw up or taking laxative which speed up bowel movements. Unlike anorexia, those with bulimia often aren't extremely thin, and usually fall within the normal weight range for their age.

Some signs of bulimia include use of diet pills, making visits to the bathroom immediately after eating, constant exercising, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Some physical signs to look for include swollen cheeks or jaw, broken blood vessels in eyes, (from vomiting) and cuts or scrapes on the knuckles which is caused by using fingers to induce vomiting.

A bulimic can develop serious physical problems , such as problems in the kidneys and intestines from diuretic abuse. They can also develop problems in the mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach from constant vomiting.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder, also known as compulsive overeating, is an eating disorder where a person loses control over the food they eat. Although a compulsive over eater is usually overweight or obese, they don't wish to gain weight. Often the binging stems from overeating when the person feels upset, stressed, angry or overwhelmed. It is comforting for them to eat and for a few minutes they feel satisfaction, but once the binge is over they feel guilty and upset again. Binge eaters are different from those with bulimia in that they don't try to purge what they've eaten. Often they try dieting, but the diets are usually short lived or unsuccessful. 

Some signs of binge eating include eating more rapidly than normal, eating past the point of fullness, eating very large amounts of food even when not hungry, eating alone for fear of judgement, eating when feeling upset, and excessive weight gain. Some consequences of binge eating disorder include low self esteem, depression and physical problems such as lowered metabolism, diabetes, heart disease and other weight related problems.

Purging Disorder

Purging disorder is a newly recognized disorder in which people with normal to below average weights purge food from their system after eating, usually by vomiting. The other purging methods include laxatives and exercise. Although very similar to bulimia, people with purging disorder do not binge before they purge. Many signs and risks of purging disorder are the same as anorexia and bulimia.

Female Athlete Triad

Female Athlete Triad Syndrome (FAT) refers to three coinciding conditions, that when presented together can cause some very negative conditions for the sufferer. Often occurring in female athletes, the three conditions include energy deficit and disordered eating, loss of menstrual periods, and bone loss that leads to injuries and osteoporosis.

EDNOS

EDNOS stands for "Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified," and refers to any eating disorder that doesn't fall under the category of anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia and bulimia have very strict criteria for diagnosis and many of those who would not fall into either of these two categories would end up slipping through the cracks, and wouldn't receive help and support even though they are just as sick.

Pica Disorder

Pica Disorder is an eating disorder where the sufferer craves and eats non-nutritive substances. Some of these materials include, but are not limited to rocks, clay, dirt, hair, feces, laundry starch, plastic and erasers. This disease often occurs in children but can also be seen in those with developmental disabilities. The sufferer of this disorder can suffer many bad affects such as stomach, GI tract and throat problems as well as death from poisoning.

Night Eating Syndrome

Night Eating Syndrome is when a person has little to no appetite during the daytime and binges at night. The person tends to eat large amounts of food between dinner and morning meals. They may leave bed at night to get a snack, and sometimes don't even realize they are doing it. This disorder is usually stress related and often accompanies depression.

Orthorexia

Orthorexia Nervosa is a disorder where the sufferer obsesses over the quality of the food they are eating. People suffering from this disorder may obsess over healthy food for three or more hours a day. They will often plan their daily menus days ahead of time. They may feel guilty and worthless if they stray from their strict diet and may seem to look down on others who don't eat as strictly as they do.

Compulsive Exercise Disorder

Compulsive exercising is considered a disorder when the person continues to engage in the activity for long periods of time, even after exhaustion when the activity becomes unsafe or unhealthy. Those who suffer from this disorder are usually looking for a sense of control and are also often anorexic or bulimic. Many with this disorder will become withdrawn from their social world as they skip school, work and time with friends or family to engage in their self destructive behavior.

Causes

Eating disorders are thought to be caused by a number of different things. One theory is that in some industrialized countries, cultural expectations of beauty and thinness cause young women and some men to fall into patterns of unhealthy eating. Eating disorders can also be caused by sports that put an emphasis on size and appearance, such as dance, gymnastics, wrestling, running sports and many others. Most eating disorders are accompanied by other conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and any traumatic event that has an emotional impact.

Prevention

Prevention methods for eating disorders include teaching young people to develop healthy eating habits and a positive body image from an early age. Teaching young people about nutrition and using food as fuel for the body is an important strategy in preventing eating disorders. Also, encouraging children to take part in activities that make them feel good about their accomplishments rather than their appearance is also a good way to build self esteem and prevent eating disorders.

Treating eating disorder patients can be a challenge since many of the patients refuse to see that anything is wrong with them. Helping a person recover from an eating disorder is a long and persistent process. Treatments for eating disorder patients often include different types of therapy and medication. One-on-one psychotherapy is important to find out the root cause of the problem and to find any emotional damage. Family therapy is equally as important because a patient with an eating disorder needs the support of the people that surround them. When a family understands the problem, they are often the ones closest to the patient and can be their support on a daily basis. Medication is usually prescribed too, since many eating disorder patients suffer from one or more psychological diseases. A nutritionist may also work with an eating disorder patient, to teach them why good nutrition is important and what they can eat to maintain a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle.

In some cases, eating disorder patients may be so far into their disease that they need immediate medical help. They may suffer from extreme nutritional deficiencies and other life threatening physical diseases that require immediate hospitalization.

Having an eating disorder is like being lost in the dark. The sufferer feels as though there is no one to help them and they feel hopeless. They resort to one of the only things they have complete control over; their eating habits. While treatment is possible and can be very effective, those who develop eating disorders often suffer from varying degrees of the disease throughout their whole lives. Treatment involves a lot of time and patience from the sufferer as well as their immediate support system and doctors, nurses and therapists. The best solution is to try to prevent the disease all together, by encouraging self esteem and teaching young people how to eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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