Eating Disorder Treatment Levels of Care

Many women struggle with some sort of disordered eating. Statistics suggest:

1 in 200 American women suffers from anorexia

2 - 3 in 100 American women suffers from bulimia

Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder

Only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment

Source: Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies, by Margo Maine, Ph.D., Gürze Books, 2000

For the most part, women who struggle with disordered eating and body image will not develop an eating disorder. However, it is estimated between 1 - 5% of the population suffer. Estimates suggest that more than eight million people will develop an eating disorder; seven million women and one million men. It has also been found that certain temperaments are prevalent in someone who is more susceptible to an eating disorder. Some of these temperaments may include depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, anxiety issues, perfectionism, as well as sleep disturbances.

Below is a list of medical complications associated with eating disorders:

Amenorrhea - Loss of menstrual cycle (due to lack of secreting hormone, Estrogen, by the ovaries). Loss of the menstrual cycle can also lead to Osteopenia and Osteoporosis.

Anemia - this makes the oxygen transporting units within the blood useless and can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, increased infections, and heart palpitations.

Bad Circulation, Slowed or Irregular Heartbeat, Arrhythmias, Angina, Heart Attack - There are many factors associated with having an Eating Disorder that can lead to heart problems or a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest can cause permanent damage to the heart, or instant death... electrolyte imbalances (especially potassium deficiency), dehydration, malnutrition, low blood pressure, extreme orthostatic hypotension, abnormally slow heart rate can all cause serious problems with the heart. High blood pressure, accumulation of fat deposits around the heart muscle, high cholesterol, decreased exercise due to lack of mobility, diabetes and hormonal imbalances can all lead to serious problems with the heart as well.

Arthritis (degenerative) - can be caused by hormonal imbalances and vitamin deficiencies as well as increased stress on the joints in individuals who are suffering Compulsive Overeating.

Barrett's Esophagus - associated with Cancer of the esophagus and caused by Esophageal Reflux, this is a change in the cells within the esophagus.

Callused or bruised fingers - this is caused by repeatedly using the fingers to induce vomiting.

Cancer - of the throat and voice box (Larynx) due to acid reflux disorders.

Chronic Fatigue - continuous and crippling fatigue related to a weakened immune system.

Cramps, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, incontinence - increased or decreased bowel activity.

Dehydration - caused by the depletion or lack of intake of fluids in the body. Restriction/Starvation, vomiting and laxative abuse are the primary causes in victims of Eating Disorders. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, or darkening of urine. It can lead to kidney failure, heart failure and death.

Dental Problems, Decalcification of teeth, erosion of tooth enamel, severe decay, Gum Disease - will be caused by stomach acids and enzymes (from vomiting); vitamin D and calcium deficiencies, and hormonal imbalance. Can also be due to the lack of exercise the teeth can get from the process of eating certain foods. Dental problems can sometime indicate problems with the heart.

Depression - mood swings and depressions can all be caused by physiological factors such as electrolyte imbalances, hormone and vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition and dehydration. Living with the Eating Disorder behaviors themselves will cause depression. Depression can also lead the victim back into the cycle of the Eating Disorder (or may have initially been the problem before the onset of the ED). Stress within family, job and relationships can all be causes. There are also a percentage of people born with a pre-disposition to depression, based on family history. Can lead to Suicide.

Diabetes - high blood sugar as a result of low production of insulin. This can be caused by hormonal imbalances, hyperglycemia, or chronic pancreatitis.

Digestive Difficulties - a deficiency in digestive enzymes will lead to the body's inability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients. This can lead to malabsorption problems, malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances.

Disruptions in Blood Sugar Levels - Low Blood Sugar/Hypoglycemia: can indicate problems with the liver or kidneys and can lead to neurological and mental deterioration. Elevated Blood Sugar/Hyperglycemia - can lead to diabetes, liver and kidney shut down, circulatory and immune system problems.

Dry Skin and Hair, Brittle Hair and Nails, Hair Loss - caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, malnutrition and dehydration.

Easily Bruising Skin - Vitamin Deficiencies that decrease the body's ability to heal itself, low blood pressure and extreme weight loss can all lead to easily bruised skin that can take a long time to heal.

Edema - swelling of the soft tissues as a result of excess water accumulation. It is most common in the legs and feet of Compulsive Overeaters and in the abdominal area of Anorexics and/or Bulimics (can be caused by Laxative and Diuretic use).

Electrolyte Imbalances - electrolytes are essential to the production of the body's "natural electricity" that ensures healthy teeth, joints and bones, nerve and muscle impulses, kidneys and heart, blood sugar levels and the delivery of oxygen to the cells.

Esophageal Reflux - Acid Reflux Disorders - partially digested items in the stomach, mixed with acid and enzymes, regurgitates back into the esophagus. This can lead to damage to the esophagus, larynx and lungs and increases the chances of developing cancer of the esophagus and voice box.