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THERE’S A PERSON UNDER THAT LABEL

Weight Obsession DisorderStruggling with an eating disorder is immensely challenging both physically and emotionally.  Individuals with anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating disorder often suffer in silence. Their conditions are often not acknowledged by themselves or their loved ones, nor diagnosed by a health professional qualified to make a proper assessment of their specific disorder.  Indeed, the statistics regarding the percentage of individuals with eating disorders must be adjusted to allow for those persons who go without diagnosis and never receive treatment.  An accurate assessment of an eating disorder requires general awareness of the potential condition and a desire on the part of the individual to get help.

When we say general awareness, we mean a basic concept of what comprises an eating disorder and the different aspects of particular disorders.  Broadly speaking, an eating disorder is defined as a condition in which an individual’s relationship with and management of food intake is impaired.  The resultant abnormal eating behavior may manifest as either an excessive or severely limited consumption of nutrients to the degree that the individual’s mental and physical health become seriously jeopardized.

A characteristic feature of anorexia nervosa is an individual’s extreme fear of gaining weight and a refusal to maintain a healthful body weight.   Individuals with bulimia nervosa typically engage in eating binges followed by behavior intended to compensate for the excessive consumption, such as purging, fasting, and over-exercising.  The characteristics of compulsive overeating disorder comprise obsessive ingestion of food as a response to emotional turmoil.  This condition lacks the compensatory component of bulimia nervosa.

It is essential to recognize that, although these conditions are defined as eating disorders, and that food is a primary aspect of each, the underlying issues are psychological and this is why mental health professionals define them as emotional disorders.  Furthermore, many individuals feel stigmatized by the diagnosis of an eating disorder, so it is important to remember that a diagnosis is intended to label the disorder not the individual.  Public awareness of the significance of eating disorders is beneficial to society because it removes the misconceptions and prejudices about these serious and growing health issues.  As more people become not just aware, but also develop a basic understanding of eating disorders, we hope that more individuals will receive the care they so desperately need.

Keep in mind that diagnosis is only the beginning.  Each individual struggling with an eating disorder is unique, and successful treatment requires individualized treatment that addresses their singular needs.  Lasting recovery can be achieved with awareness, understanding and focused professional care.

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