- Published on Wednesday, 23 July 2008 02:00
- Written by Nancy Dickenson
While Americans get heavier every year, it seems the ideal body becomes thinner and thinner. At some point, most of us have felt a degree of concern about our weight and many have tried innumerable diets to lose that weight.
Some have extreme concern and develop an obsessive relationship with food. Whether eating too much or too little, these abnormal eating habits can become serious eating disorders that threaten not only health and well-being, but also life itself.
The two main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. People with anorexia have distorted body images that cause them to restrict calorie intake severely to lose weight. Bulimia is a disorder characterized by excessive eating, followed by purging with laxatives, enemas, diuretics or vomiting or exercising excessively. Although eating disorders typically affect 13- to 35-year-old women, older women, men and boys can also be affected.
Eating disorders often begin with a person eating more or less food than usual. For unknown reasons, this behavior eventually spirals out of control. It is important to remember that eating disorders are treatable mental illnesses with complex biological and psychological causes. Left untreated, eating disorders can lead to a number of serious health issues, including kidney and heart disease, and even death.
"The Eating Disorder Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments and Prevention of Eating Disorders" (McGraw Hill, 2007) is an excellent resource for coping with an eating disorder and those trying to help someone with an eating disorder.
Author Carolyn Costin is a therapist and a recovered anorexic. Her personal and professional experience is a bonus, combining true empathy for the sufferer with her clinical expertise. She helps readers recognize the signs of eating disorders, learn where to find help when an eating disorder is suspected and be able to make intelligent treatment choices. In the newest edition, Costin addresses the latest medical treatments, including antipsychotics and antidepressants, new approaches to psychological treatment, such as dialectical behavior therapy and family-based therapy, and current research, especially research attempting to determine cause.
Another book by Costin, "100 Questions & Answers About Eating Disorders" (Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2007), tackles the same issues in a question-and-answer format. This book, like all the 90 titles in the popular "100 Questions & Answers" series, is a quick and simple reference, a great place for people to start learning about eating disorders.
For parents of those with anorexia nervosa, "Demystifying Anorexia Nervosa: An Optimistic Guide to Understanding and Healing" (Oxford University Press, 2008) is a useful guide.
Author Alexander R. Lucas is an adolescent and child psychiatrist with 40 years' experience treating anorexia nervosa. He emphasizes that anorexia is not a "one-size-fits-all disease." There are many paths that can cause a person to become anorexic and many treatment modalities are possible. In this book, parents are alerted to signs of trouble and told what to expect in an initial evaluation. Lucas addresses other disorders that mimic anorexia and includes a chapter on bulimia and binge eating. The book is written for parents, but a "message to patients" is included that encourages them to read the book and consider the importance of treating their problem.