Is It In My Head?

Still So Misunderstood

When a person has an eating disorder, those on the outside of the issue may only see the surface of what is going on. She won’t eat. He says he’s fine. They say they are healthy and not to worry. Yet, upon deeper examination, the truth begins to materialize and the understanding that an eating disorder is often linked to some other type of emotional or mental illness begins to dawn. The judgment that a young woman with anorexia is just a stubborn, vain, underweight person who won’t eat melts away when those outside of her issue finally understand that it isn’t about the food. Still, there is much confusion and ignorance when it comes to the disease of anorexia, or eating disorders of any sort. Treatment is difficult, especially if it is only the symptoms that are being addressed and the core issues are ignored.

The Link Prevails

In some cases, an eating disorder is secondary to a psychological disorder that underlies the symptoms. In other cases, the psychological disorder is secondary and a result of the eating disorder. Some of the psychological disorders that accompany such eating disorders as anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating, include OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), bipolar and bipolar ll disorder, panic and anxiety disorders, and various personality disorders.

People who suffer with eating disorders often are reacting to low self-esteem and use this negative form of coping in order to relieve the stress of life. Other self-destructive behaviors and addictions may appear alongside the eating disorder-such addictions as alcoholism, self-injury, and drug addictions. What becomes more and more evident in all of the quagmire of eating disorders is that they are far more than a problem with food. All too often, the eating disorder is a symptom of something far deeper than imagined.

Research Indicates Tie Between Suicide And Eating Disorders

A small study completed within the last decade revealed that women with eating disorders who have also attempted to take their own lives had a depressive disorder far in advance of the eating disorder. Women with an eating disorder who have attempted suicide were shown to have suffered with major depression and anxiety disorders from a young age.

According to Dr. Lisa R.R. Lilenfeld of Georgia State University in Atlanta, lead author of a study involving 27 eating-disorder patients with a history of suicide attempts, a substantial number of people with eating disorders purposely injure themselves or attempt to take their lives. It was reported in the International Journal of Eating Disorders that, for these women, “the eating disorder may be secondary to a mood disturbance.”

Which Came First?

Some past research suggests the tables are turned the other way around-that the emotional disorder comes in the wake of the eating disorder. However, in cases of self-destruction and suicide attempts, the information is becoming clearer that the emotional disorder preexisted the eating disorder.

The bottom line of this study, the authors write, is that women with eating disorders and a history of depression may be at increased risk for suicide. By changing treatment to address the regulation of emotions and mood, fatal repercussions may be averted.

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