Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses there are. Because secrecy plays such a part in these disorders, they are often difficult to detect. Since the disorder has gone undetected for so long, its mechanisms are often firmly entrenched by the time the person seeks help, making it very tough to overcome.
Most people have heard of anorexia and bulimia, but the majority of people who struggle with disordered eating actually suffer from something most folks haven’t heard of; EDNOS which stands for eating disorder not otherwise specified.
Although men also struggle with eating disorders, the vast majority of patients are women. Many women who do not meet the criteria for disorders like bulimia and anorexia, nevertheless engage is highly disordered eating. In fact, those who suffer from EDNOS face a 5.2 percent mortality rate. That rate is much higher than the rate for either anorexia or bulimia.
Women with EDNOS may look normal, but their eating has become highly erratic or tightly controlled. Some women describe riding a roller coaster in which they may binge for a time followed by a plunge into strictly controlled food intake. Women may use food to cope with unpleasant emotions while others find satisfaction from exerting control through food. These women do not meet the precise measures for more well-known eating disorders, but their relationship to food is extremely unhealthy and even dangerous.
The number of women affected by EDNOS is striking. Some say that 70 percent of all cases of disordered eating fall under the heading of EDNOS. The problems these women face mirror those confronted by women diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia. There is an issue of poor self-image, harsh rules associated with food, obsession with food/weight and sometimes intense measures to counterbalance eating such as purging or extended exercise sessions.
Those who live with EDNOS wind up dealing with many of the same results from their behavior as well. Like those who suffer from bulimia and anorexia, women with EDNOS experience disruptions in ability to concentrate, menstruation, sleep and body temperature. It usually isn’t until the person passes out in front of others, habitually eats alone, or reveals worrisome weight losses that others begin to realize there is a serious problem.
Once the person themselves or others around them realize the danger, it is crucial that the person receive professional help. Treatment centers specialize in helping overcome eating disorders as do some therapists. What is important is that the person be helped to regain healthy food regulation, followed by training in overcoming problematic thinking about food and self.
Eating disorders of every kind are more than overdone diets. They are mental health issues that lead to serious health risks including death. The one that is most pervasive is the one without a clear name or clinical definition.