Disorder of mouth and mind

Everyone has their own unique relationship with food, but like any other relationship, some are healthy and some are not. When one’s relationship with food becomes unhealthy, it can be a serious danger to them and may be identified as an eating disorder. An eating disorder is a serious mental and physical illness that attacks the mind and body and changes the mental and physical state of a human being.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, as many as 10 million women and 1 million men are fighting a life-or-death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

The National Eating Disorder Association recognizes depression, dramatic weight loss, refusal to eat certain foods and food groups, anxiety, excessive and rigid exercise, withdrawal from friends and activities, unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area, discolored or stained teeth, and frequent trips to the bathroom after meals as some common signs of eating disorders.

Graphic by Lyndsay Santoro.

Thirty girls at Radford University were polled about eating disorders, and two out of 30 stated that they’ve had an eating disorder in the past. This statistic is very close to what research has found in that about one in 15 college-age females has or is in serious danger of having an eating disorder. Each girl was also asked to list two signs or symptoms they thought were associated with an eating disorder, and over 50% of those surveyed said that both depression and being extremely thin were signs. Less than 25% listed the less obvious but serious signs, such as unhealthy hair, brittle nails and yellow teeth. An even smaller percent of those surveyed recognized one of the top signs of an eating disorder — excessive exercise.

Graphic by Lyndsay Santoro.

Depression is one of the most common emotional signs of an eating disorder. Many women who have an eating disorder are hiding something other than their issues with food. There is almost always an underlying reason to why they refuse to eat or throw up everything they put in their body. Most women recovering from an eating disorder will tell you they felt there was nothing in their life they could control except the way they look. Not having the control they yearn for can lead to serious depression. Once stuck on the different thoughts and activities associated with an eating disorder, it’s very hard to recover, and depression often gets worse. Many think they’ll never feel good enough, be thin enough, or be loved enough.

This is where family and friends play an important role. Knowledge of an eating disorder — its causes, signs, symptoms and treatments — is very important for family and friends to understand. Sometimes the only treatment for  an eating disorder is having someone around who understands.

These individuals can be helped as long as society continues to familiarize itself with the signs, symptoms and treatments of eating disorders. It’s knowledge that could save lives.