If a friend or a loved one is suffering with an eating disorder the problems they face are much more complex and life-threatening than what is apparent on the surface. A general misconception is that conditions such as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating disorder are only about an individual’s dysfunctional management of food. The reality of eating disorders is that they are an outward expression of underlying psychological issues and develop as a form of coping mechanism to deal this deep emotional turmoil. The very nature of eating disorders makes it more than likely that a sufferer has accompanying mental and physical issues that further threaten the individuals overall mental well-being and general health.
The physical complications of eating disorders are quite wide ranging and extremely serious. The taxing effects these condition wreak on the body can lead to diabetes, heart disease, dental and mouth disease, skin disorders, fertility issues, and permanent organ damage, to name but a few of the health problems we commonly see in individuals struggling with eating disorders. Clearly, these potentially life-threatening complications make it essential for any treatment program to employ a multidisciplinary approach so as to address the medical aspects of eating disorders in addition to the psychological issues.
Anyone having glanced at the incomplete list of physical complications in the above paragraph might conclude that these represent the greatest danger to the eating disordered individual but this is not entirely accurate. 1 out of 4 individuals suffering from an eating disorder develop serious emotional issues, the one posing the most imminent physical harm being self-injurious behavior. This behavior can involve self inflicted wounds, burns, scarring, branding, and even poisoning. Generally, individuals engage in this behavior as a psychological response to unbearable emotional pain. It is important for therapists and clinicians to be vigilant for evidence of self-harm since the behavior can escalate and result in irreversible harm and death by suicide.
Given the complexity of eating disorders, it is crucial to seek help at the earliest possible juncture and to locate a treatment program that understands both the physical and emotional aspects of the condition. A supportive and caring environment that assists in the development of positive coping skills is essential for a overcoming the disorder and achieving a lasting recovery.