Lady Gaga’s picture of herself wearing nothing but a yellow bra and underwear has brought the words bulimia, anorexia, and eating disorder into the spotlight. Which one is it?
While articles like Lady Gaga Reveals Lifelong Struggle with Eating Disorder (People, 9/26/2012), Lady Gaga admits she battles bulimia, anorexia (USA Today 9/26/2012), Lady Gaga has battled with eating disorders since she was a teenager (IrishCentral 9/27/2012), Lady Gaga: “Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15″ (VOXXI 9/28/2012) show Lady Gaga’s picture and quote the picture’s accompanying words “Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15”, there is little clarification in the media about what the eating disorders are and many students are confused.
The American Psychiatric Association provides an informative brochure “Let’s Talk Facts about Eating Disorders” for students, educators, mental health care professionals, the media, and the public.
According to the brochure, an eating disorder is an illness “in which the victims suffer severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.”
A person suffering from an eating disorder becomes obsessed with food and body weight. While anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two main types of eating disorders, other eating disorders like binge eating are being researched.
“People with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa tend to be perfectionists who suffer from low self-esteem and are extremely critical of themselves and their bodies. They usually “feel fat” and see themselves as overweight, sometimes even despite life-threatening semi-starvation (or malnutrition). An intense fear of gaining weight and of being fat may become all pervasive.”
Binge Eating Disorder characteristics:
- Individuals with a binge eating disorder have episodes of binge eating in which they consume very large quantities of food in a brief period and feel out of control during the binge.
- Unlike bulimia, binge eating disorder does not include getting rid of the food by vomiting or laxatives.
- Binge eating is chronic and can lead to serious health complications like severe obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
- More research studies are being conducted about binge eating disorder but it is not to be confused with bulimia.
Bulimia Nervosa characteristics:
- Bulimia includes binge eating (eating a vast amount of food in a short time, eating rapidly, gulping down food) followed by throwing up/purging, using laxatives, or excessive exercise in order to get rid of the food and weight again.
- binge eating occurs in cycles of uncontrolled excessive eating followed by excessive dieting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercise
- devouring calories (consuming thousands of calories that are high in sugars, carbohydrates, and fat)
- frequent diets
- vigorous exercise
- worn/decayed tooth enamel (from exposure to stomach acids)
- intestinal problems (irritation from laxative abuse)
- kidney problems/dehydration (from use of water pills/diuretics or purging of fluids)
- recurring inflamed and sore throat
- individuals with bulimia nervosa can be underweight, normal weight, overweight or even obese.
In contrast to anorexic individuals, bulimic people are never as underweight as anorexia nervosa sufferers.
Anorexia nervosa characteristics:
- Anorexia nervosa is diagnosed when patients weigh at least 15 percent less than the normal healthy weight expected for their height.
- unlike bulimic individuals that eat and binge in cycles, anorexic individuals do not maintain a normal body weight
- refuse to eat
- exercise obsessively
- sometimes force themselves to vomit or use laxatives to lose weight but will not regain it as in bulemia
- unless appropriate treatment is sought, the body of anorexics will go into starvation and malnutrition which can result in the cessation of menstrual periods, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), brittle hair and nails, dry or yellowish skin, constipation, depression, lethargy, drop in blood pressure and body temperature, slowed breathing and pulse rate, and eventual heart failure.
Because of the differences between binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa, the treatment for each eating disorder varies. While the binge eating disorder has to deal with the health effects of obesity, bulimia has to deal with the binge-purge cycle, and anorexia has to focus on restoring a person to a healthy weight.
Since all three eating disorders are illnesses in which the individuals suffer severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions, psychotherapy, CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), nutritional counseling, and education is of utmost importance.
If 26-year-old Lady Gaga writes on her website that “My weight/loss/gain since i was a child has tormented me”, it poses an interesting question to discuss in a classroom, – is she referring to binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, mere variations in weight, or the natural changes that each girl experiences when becoming a woman? The answers should be quite interesting.
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