Eating disorders

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:48 pm
Eating disorders, such as anorexia (an-a-REX-ee-uh) nervosa (ner-VO-sa) and bulimia (bull-EE-mee-ah) nervosa (ner-VOSE-ah), are a growing problem among teenagers, especially young women. Unfortunately, many teenagers manage to hide these serious and sometimes fatal disorders from their friends and families for months or even years. Nevertheless, there are a number of symptoms to watch for. Unlike teenagers with other types of mental or emotional problems, teenagers with anorexia or bulimia are likely to be perfectionists and high achievers in school. They may be extremely popular and well liked by teachers and classmates, and may seem like well-adjusted young adults. However, at he same time, they tend to suffer from low self-esteem and, and have a distorted perception of their physical appearance. Both anorexics and bulimics believe they're fat, even if they weigh so little that it threatens to be fatal. While anorexics attempt to control their weight primarily through refusing food, dieting, and exercising, bulimics experience alternating periods of bingeing and purging. First they gorge themselves on food uncontrollably, and then they attempt to compensate through self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or exercise. Both conditions are extremely dangerous, and can cause body functions to slow down; menstruation to stop; and breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels. In some cases, fingernails and hair become brittle, skin dries and yellows, constipation occurs, bones thin out, and heart and kidney problems develop. Treatment of these diseases may involve medication, psychotherapy, behavior modification, and nutrition counseling. For more information, consult a health care provider in your area.

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