Mental health problems
 
Eating disorders
 
What are they?
•    Don’t confuse picky eating with an eating disorder. It can be normal to either eat more or less in stressful situations, to have fanciful eating habits or to want to follow particular nutritional principles. Most people have followed a diet at one point or another and have certain concerns about their body and weight.

•    An eating disorder is when a person has exaggerated or extreme beliefs and behaviours with regard to food and their weight, and when this is damaging to their health.

•    Eating disorders can have negative consequences on the person’s physical/psychological health and personal relationships.

•    Eating disorders are most common among female adolescents and women but also affect boys and men.

•    These disorders are complex and can only be diagnosed by health professionals.

•    There are several types of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and hyperphagia.

•    If you believe you are exhibiting the symptoms of an eating disorder, it’s important to consult a doctor or health professional as soon as possible because without treatment, the illness and physical health problems can worsen, increasing the risk of death.

 
Physical and psychological consequences

Physical consequences:
•    Fatigue and headache
•    Insomnia and memory loss
•    Dry skin and flaking nails
•    Yellow or grey complexion
•    Hair loss, brittle/dull hair
•    Risk of osteoporosis
•    Dental problems (cavities, yellow teeth, loosening of teeth, changes in enamel)
•    Burst facial blood vessels
•    Loss of muscle mass
•    Cessation of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
•    Anaemia
•    Loss of sexual desire
•    Cold sensation (hands/feet)
•    Appearance of laguno hair (fine hair on the face, back and arms)
•    Digestive problems (chronic constipation)
•    Tremors
•    Loss of consciousness
•    Cardiac problems
•    Kidney problems
•    Dehydration
•    Bleeding/perforation of the oesophagus
•    Death

Psychological consequences:
•    Excessive concerns over weight and food
•    Mood swings, irritability
•    Distorted body image
•    Depression, sadness
•    Decreased self-esteem, diminished self-worth, guilt tendencies
•    Feeling of loneliness or isolation
•    Difficulty concentrating
•    Avoidance of social activities and meals
•    Obsessive rituals regarding food and behaviour toward weight loss
•    Suicidal thoughts (in some cases)

 
Anorexia
•    Anorexia is characterized by significant weight loss resulting from undernourishment caused by an intense and exaggerated fear of gaining weight.

•    An anorexic person tries to control their weight using extreme and excessive methods.

•    This person has a distorted body image, meaning that they are convinced they are fat even though in reality they are becoming thinner and thinner and have a below-normal body weight.

•    An obsession with being thin makes an anorexic person feel uncomfortable with themselves and guilty.

•    One of the symptoms of anorexia is that the person stops menstruating or does not begin her period.

•    If you believe you have symptoms of anorexia, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible, because the illness can quickly become worse and cause serious physical health problems. Therapy is required to treat anorexia.

 
Bulimia
•    Bulimia is characterized by episodes of an over-intake of food in a short period of time even when the person is no longer hungry.

•    An intense and exaggerated fear of gaining weight causes the person to try to expel this food by inappropriate means.

•    A person with bulimia feels out of control over what they eat. This causes them to feel guilty and inferior and to suffer physical discomfort.

•    Bulimia can be hard to detect because often there is no significant weight loss involved. However, damage to the person’s health can be severe and can even sometimes lead to death.

•    If you believe you have symptoms of bulimia, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible, because the illness can quickly become worse. Therapy is required to treat bulimia.


 
Hyperphagia
•    Hyperphagia is characterized by episodes of an over-intake of food in a short period of time even when the person is no longer hungry or feels uncomfortable.

•    A person with hyperphagia does not try to expel the excess food consumed.

•    The person feels out of control over what they’re eating. They feel unable to stop and experience guilt and shame.

•    One of the symptoms of hyperphagia is weight gain.

•    If you believe you have symptoms of hyperphagia, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible, because the illness can quickly become worse. Therapy is required to treat hyperphagia.

 
Helping a friend
If you’re worried about a friend you think may have an eating disorder, it’s important to know that these are complex problems that can cause a great deal of suffering. It’s not merely a matter of starting to eat again in order to resolve the problem; professional help is required.
Here are some ways you can help your friend:
  • Talk to your friend about your concerns and feelings using the “I” form. Example: “I’m worried about you isolating yourself ... about seeing you so tired.” Avoid mentioning your friend’s weight, physical appearance or diet.
  • Remind your friend that they are important to you, which is why you’re worried about them.
  • Listen to your friend and encourage them to confide in you. Try not to interrupt them while they’re talking.
  • Encourage them to see a doctor or the school nurse or to go to the CLSC. They can also call Tel-jeunes or visit the ANEB Web site.
  • If you believe your friend’s health is in danger, tell them, and be sure to get them help because you’re concerned about their health.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, you too can seek help and support from an adult you trust or from a professional. Or call Tel-jeunes!
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