Statistics on eating disorders are staggering. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 10 million people in the United States, mainly women, struggle with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Both disorders involve an obsession with not gaining weight and an intense anxiety about food, though this obsession manifests differently in each case. People with anorexia have a distorted body image that causes them to see themselves as overweight even when they’re dangerously thin. Often refusing to eat, exercising compulsively, and developing unusual habits such as refusing to eat in front of others, they lose large amounts of weight and may even starve to death. Physical problems associated with anorexia nervosa include damage to the heart and other vital organs, low blood pressure, slowed heartbeat, constipation, abdominal pain, loss of muscle mass, hair loss, sensitivity to the cold, and fine body hair growth.
Individuals with bulimia eat to excess and then purge their bodies of the food and calories by using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics, vomiting and/ or exercising. Often acting in secrecy, they feel ashamed as they binge, yet relieved of tension and negative emotions once their stomachs are empty. Complications associated with bulimia nervosa include damage to the heart, kidneys, reproductive system, intestinal tract, esophagus, teeth, and mouth.