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How Women are Affected by Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious conditions that can affect a person’s physical or mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are susceptible to eating disorders as a result of influences from society, interpersonal relationships, or psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. In the past, eating disorders were associated more with teens or women in their 20s. Eating disorders can have life threatening consequences and many women are never diagnosed.

Types of Eating Disorders

women and anorexia

Eating disorders affect much more than just a woman’s physique.

  • Anorexia Nervosa occurs when a person eats the least amount of food possible, almost to the point of starvation. People with anorexia are obsessed with the fear of gaining weight and are extremely thin. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a person with anorexia nervosa disorder “is 18 times more likely to die early compared with people of similar age in the general population.”
  • Bulimia Nervosa occurs when a person binges on large amounts of food and then, purges themselves by vomiting, taking laxatives, or exercising compulsively.
  • Binge Eating Disorder is common among people who are overweight or obese. They have repeated episodes of eating large amounts of food or uncontrolled overeating.
  • Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is a diagnostic category that represents people with other eating disorders that do not meet the clinical diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa although they present similar behaviors.

How Women are affected by Eating Disorders

Women are affected by eating disorders emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Over time, eating disorders can have extremely dangerous health consequences. Anorexia nervosa can cause cardiac problems and possible heart failure due to slow heart rate and low blood pressure which can also lead to fatigue, fainting, blue hands or feet from lack of proper oxygen in the blood. Lack of food can cause Osteoporosis or loss of bone marrow, loss of muscle, dry hair or skin, dehydration, altered menstrual cycles, dehydration and possible kidney failure. Bulimia can cause the same effects but, also can lead to a rupture of the esophagus or tooth decay from frequent vomiting. If laxatives are used, bowel problems may result diuretic use may complicate dehydration issues. Some physical affects may be fatal.

Psychologically, eating disorders in women can cause, or add to, mental health complications. Women are subject to greater amounts of depression, anxiety, and other neurological developments when they are undernourished or suffer from obesity. Inability to control eating habits can significantly, complicate other matters in their life.

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