In a time where a still growing number of public figures succumb to pressures of extreme thinness it feels important to remind ourselves of this potentially life threatening illness. In fact a US study has revealed that people with eating disorders are at an increased risk of death. And the analysis revealed that the mortality rate among anorexics is five times that of non sufferers and for bulimics double what would be expected for comparable people in the general population without an eating disorder. This alarming statistic is great cause for concern, as according to Britain’s largest eating disorder organization, B-EAT, at least 1.6 million in the UK, are suffering from this devastating illness.
Why are anorexics at increased risk?
Essentially all eating disorders have serious psychical consequences. To rate the various types of eating disorders in order of severity would be careless. Besides, very few people with eating disorders fall neatly into any one category. It is not unusual for the bulimic to be restricting or for the anorexic to engage in binge episodes. Nonetheless, according to researchers of the study, the mortality rate for Anorexia Nervosa is higher because sufferers present with psychiatric and medical problems and in many cases have more than one psychiatric illness to contend with. Most people with Anorexia also suffer from anxiety, depression or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The physical symptoms of Anorexia are often overt as starvation leaves the body malnourished and frail. The pressures and extreme demands that are put on the body to maintain vital functions invariably cause the body to shut down and whether by suicide or actual starvation, Anorexia can result in death. In order to properly treat Anorexia, it is therefore of paramount importance, that treatment encompasses medical AND psychiatric healing, and that underlying maintaining factors be addressed.
Not just a phase
This particular piece of research serves as an important reminder of the severity of Anorexia. Thankfully most media figures, who succumb to the illness live to tell the tale in tabloid forums. Unfortunately this media rarely give due credence to the severity of the person’s struggles and there seems to be a potential danger that young men and women deduce from such retrospective recovery stories that Anorexia is a phase and that all sufferers fully recover. Successful recovery is a life-long commitment that requires an immense amount of courage, strength, and honesty. And as with addiction, the ever present potential for a resurgence of the disorder is an important reminder not to ever become complacent.