MENTAL HEALTH EATING DISORDERS

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1 MENTAL HEALTH EATING DISORDERS

2 WHAT IS AN EATING DISORDER? We all overeat from time to time. We may feel bad about it and then diet to lose a few pounds. But when your eating behavior becomes extreme including a severe, continued decrease in eating and repeated episodes of overeating, accompanied by overwhelming, negative feelings about yourself or your body you could have an eating disorder. An eating disorder is a treatable medical illness with psychological causes and may be accompanied by depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Common Eating Disorders The two most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia. Both are serious conditions that require medical monitoring. 2

3 Anorexia People with anorexia demonstrate an unrelenting effort to lose weight, an unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight, and an extreme fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia are often very thin, even emaciated. Their bodies do not have the nutrients necessary to function normally. Symptoms of anorexia include: } Refusing to eat } Losing weight quickly } Having a distorted body image, feeling overweight even when you are malnourished or have low weight } Exercising excessively to lose weight } Having an intense fear of gaining weight Bulimia Bulimia is characterized by repeated episodes of excessive eating, or binges. During a binge, a person with bulimia loses control over his or her eating and then experiences an intense urge to get rid of the food by purging. Purging can take many forms, including selfinduced vomiting, excessive exercise, or the use of laxatives. Unlike those suffering with anorexia, people with bulimia often remain within a normal weight range. Symptoms of bulimia include: } Binge eating in private, followed by feelings of remorse and shame } Self-induced vomiting after meals } Abuse of laxatives or diuretics } Extreme dissatisfaction with body size and shape } Planning the day to find times for secretive binging and purging 3

4 Who Suffers from Eating Disorders? Eating disorders typically affect teenage girls and young adult women. However, an increasing number of older adult women, men, and boys are reporting symptoms of anorexia and bulimia. Recognizing an Eating Disorder The symptoms of anorexia and bulimia may not be obvious. Those nearest to a person suffering from anorexia and bulimia may not recognize the symptoms of the disorder for some time, because people with eating disorders often try to hide them. To mask weight loss, for example, a person with anorexia may wear baggy and layered clothing. People with bulimia may often look for opportunities to binge when others are not present. Some noticeable signs of anorexia and bulimia include: } Making excuses to avoid or skip meals } Going to the bathroom frequently after meals } Developing food rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or rearranging food on the plate while eating little } Discoloration of teeth } A preoccupation with weight, food, calories, or fat grams 4

5 SEEKING TREATMENT Untreated eating disorders are fatal for up to 20 percent of those diagnosed. However, fatalities decrease to below 3 percent with treatment. Early identification and treatment are good predictors of success. Treatment, involving a team of professionals, may include: } Psychotherapy to address underlying causes of the eating disorder } Cognitive behavioral therapy to develop practical skills to manage eating disorder behaviors } Weight restoration, when needed } Nutrition counseling } Medical monitoring by the primary care doctor } Psychiatric medication, when indicated 5

6 HELPFUL RESOURCES Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association (MEDA) MEDA medainc.org MEDA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders and disordered eating. MEDA serves as a support network and resource for patients and families. National Institute of Mental Health nimh.nih.gov This organization provides information about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health issues. Brochures, information sheets, and other educational information are available. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) nationaleatingdisorders.org NEDA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. 6

7 For more information and referrals for treatment, Tufts Health Plan members can contact the Tufts Health Plan Mental Health Department at or look online at tuftshealthplan.com. 7

8 Mental Health Department tuftshealthplan.com 705 Mount Auburn Street Watertown, MA MH-EATING-6/14

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