Guest post by Chloe Spencer
Many young girls, teenagers and young women suffer from eating disorders. The most common are Anorexia and Bulimia--which have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152). And over 24 million people are suffering from an eating disorder in the U.S. (The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources”).
In a list of case studies on a Harvard webpage for students, I found a case study about a twenty-year-old woman called Brenda, who was Anorexic, becoming Bulimic in later years.
I encourage all women (and men too) to read this case study as if it was about your daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, or close friend. My goal is to increase awareness and encourage all of you reading this to take action and inform the young girls in your life about eating disorders. And to check up on your friends and family, especially the girls and women, who are so commonly affected by these disorders.
Brenda is in her junior year of college, and throughout her adolescent and teenage years, her dream has been to be a professional ballet dancer. But to achieve this goal, she feels she must be very thin, and has been restricting her weight since she was a girl. She says her instructors told her repeatedly she was too fat, and so she became obsessed with her body image. She started to diet harder, even though all her friends told her she seemed very skinny. This starving of herself is what is diagnosed as Anorexia. Anorexia is dieting so strictly that one becomes starved and extremely thin, to a point of danger to one's health and ultimately life.
With her obsession with being told she was fat at her weight of 100 pounds, Brenda would diet so much and then get so hungry, that she would binge and purge. Binging is losing control of one’s hunger and eating large amounts of junk food, such as ice cream, candy, cookies, cake, greasy foods, etc. Then purging usually follows, which is forcing one-self to throw up all the food they just ate because they feel guilty and don’t want to gain weight. This is what defines Bulimia; binging and purging.
This cycle of bulimic actions continued in the same pattern, and repeated itself for many years, until now when Brenda is concerned about not starting her menstrual cycles at twenty-years-old, and is afraid about not being able to have a child in later life, so she reports to her clinic.
It is very fortunate Brenda has reported to her clinic, for she could have died if these behaviors continued for much longer, either from starvation, heart failure, organ failure, suicide, or other medical effects. The effects of being Bulimic for the period Brenda was, already has impacted her very negatively. It is very hard to treat Bulimia and it takes a long time to return the victim to a healthy state.
According to EatingDisordersOnline.com, from the constant purging Brenda’s teeth are most likely rotting in parts of her mouth, and she might have a stomach ulcer or a rupture in her stomach or esophagus. She also might have an abnormal amount of fluid in her intestines or other disruptions in her bowels. She’s likely to be severely dehydrated, and her heart might be beating irregularly, which is very dangerous and could lead to a heart attack. And most disturbing of all, Brenda could have become so depressed because of her disorder that she could have committed suicide.
50% of people suffering from eating disorders suffer from severe depression as a result (Mortality in Anorexia Nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry). And 60% of all suicides are committed by people suffering from major depression. In America alone, a person commits suicide every 15 minutes (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).
If you know anyone that could possibly be Anorexic, Bulimic, or depressed, sit down with him or her and talk to them. It's often hard to tell if someone is Bulimic, whereas someone who's Anorexic will be severely skinny. So watch for suspicious behavior after meals, and signs of binging and purging. Only 6% of Bulimia sufferers receive medical treatment (National Eating Disorders Association). Be there as a support, and take action. Almost everybody suffering from an eating disorder can recover FULLY with medical help. ...You may just end up saving a life.