For people who have never suffered from an eating disorder or known someone who has, it can be difficult to understand their complex nature and the challenges it requires to properly treat them. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are much more complicated and serious than someone merely wanting to alter their appearance. They are dangerous illnesses that not only leave their victims feeling alone, ashamed, and out of control, but often bring with them an ugly array of other mental issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Perhaps most surprising of all is that eating disorders don’t just affect one’s appearance, mental health, and lifestyle, they contribute to hundreds of eating disorder-related deaths every single day.
The good news is eating disorders are treatable. While treatment can be as complicated and nuanced as the person needing it, there are steps that can be taken to regain control of one’s mental and physical well-being.
Here’s what you need to know about the serious nature of eating disorders and how to get the support you need to save your or a loved one’s life.
Eating Disorders Are Serious Conditions
When eating disorders first begin to rear their ugly heads, they usually go unnoticed or are downplayed by the individual and their peers. What starts off as seemingly harmless dieting that leaves an individual feeling satisfied with their successful weight loss slowly transforms into a compulsive desire to unrealistically control their weight, resulting in self-hatred and social isolation.
Over time, the person will likely feel helpless or that treatment won’t be able to manage their overwhelming compulsions, but urgency is critical when it comes to seeking help. Eating disorders will not go away on their own and will certainly get more sinister over time. According to The National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders are not just a fad or phase that people go through. They “can affect every organ system in the body, and people struggling with an eating disorder need to seek professional help. The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.”
Eating Disorder-Related Death Rates
It’s hard to imagine that the compulsion to control one’s weight could lead to that person’s imminent death, but the numbers don’t lie. Very Well Mind shares some startling statistics that put the severity of these situations into perspective:
- Eating disorders have the highest death rates out of all mental disorders.
- People with anorexia are 5.86 times more likely to die than their age-matched peers.
- People with binge eating disorders, such as bulimia, are 1.93 times more likely to die than their peers without an eating disorder.
- People with eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are 1.92 more likely to die than their age-matched peers.
- Following a hospitalization, patients between the ages of 25 and 44 who have anorexia are 14 times more likely to die than their peers.
Causes of Eating Disorder-Realated Deaths
When you consider that every system of the body is affected by an eating disorder, the mortality rates shouldn’t surprise you. Malnutrition contributes to the cardiovascular problems and low body weight that most commonly result in death, especially for those with anorexia nervosa.
Other long-term medical issues that stem from anorexia include:
- Premature osteoporosis and bone fractures due to a lack of vitamin D and calcium
- Anemia and low white blood cell count
- A compromised immune system that increases risk of other infections
- Kidney damage and failure due to dehydration
- Risk of starvation
Other long-term medical issues that stem from bulimia include:
- Tooth decay and eroding enamel due to frequent vomiting
- Stomach ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Risk of ruptured esophagus
- Kidney damage
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Electrolyte imbalances that can affect the heart and kidneys
No matter what eating disorder a person is suffering from, they are always at an increased risk of heart or kidney failure caused by the stress their disease puts on their major organs, along with the threat of suicide that results from their mental instability.
Fairwinds Treatment Center
Eating disorders are deceiving. They can slowly and sneakily develop over time, and are often a serious problem before they ever go diagnosed. If left untreated, eating disorders will continue to control you (or your loved one) and can have drastic physical and psychological consequences, including suicide or death.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, you are not alone. Contacting a reputable treatment facility is crucial to starting the recovery process. With over 30 years of experience helping families and patients suffering from eating disorders heal, Fairwinds Treatment Center is one of the most trusted eating disorder facilities in the country. We proudly assist adult and adolescent patients as young as 12 years old, as well as both male and female patients.
If you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, contact us to learn more about treatment options. With the right support, you or your loved one can start the process to regain control of your life today.