Divorce and Eating Disorders
In many cases, teenages girls whose parents are divorcing will
often focus their attention on their body image because it is
something that feel they can control.
As their world around them, by that I mean the family
environment is changing, they will go and do things that they
want to change about them. Anorexia and bulimia are two very
serious eating disorders. This is not a phase that will pass. It
is a very serious Illiness and should be treated as such.
Teenages, especially, with anorexia are determined to control
the amounts of food they eat.
People with bulimia tend to feel out of control where food is
Anorexia affects seven out of every 100 teenage girls, although
the illness can be experienced earlier and later in life. Most
people who have anorexia are female, but males also develop the
disorder. Bulimia may affect up to three in every hundred
teenage girls. More females than males develop bulimia.
It seems that few people meet the criteria for eating disorders,
it is far more common for people to have unrealistic attitudes
about body size and shape. These attitudes may contribute to
inappropriate eating habits or dieting practices.
Both illnesses can be overcome and it is important for the
person to seek advice about either condition as early as
What are the symptoms of anorexia?
a loss of at least 15 per cent of body weight resulting from
refusal to eat enough food, despite extreme hunger;
a disturbance of perceptions of body image in that the person
may regard themselves as fat, overestimating body size the
thinner they become;
- an intense fear of becoming ‘fat’ and of losing control;
- a tendency to exercise obsessively;
- a preoccupation with the preparation of food;
- making lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food.
Usually, anorexia begins with a weight loss, either resulting
from a physical illness or from dieting. Favourable comments
cause the person to believe that if thin is good, thinner is
better. The body does not react well to starvation, and erratic
eating behaviour begins to dominate the person’s life. About 40
per cent of people with anorexia will later develop bulimia.
What are the symptoms of bulimia?
eating binges which involve consumption of large amounts of
calorie-rich food, during which the person feels a loss of
personal control and self disgust;
attempts to compensate for binges and to avoid weight gain by
self-induced vomiting, and/or abuse of laxatives and fluid
combination of restricted eating and compulsive exercise so that
control of weight dominates the person’s life.
A person with bulimia is usually average or slightly above
average weight for height, so is often less recognisable than
the person with anorexia.
Bulimia often starts with rigid weight reduction dieting in the
"pursuit of thinness". Inadequate nutrition causes tiredness and
powerful urges to binge eat. Vomiting after a binge seems to
bring a sense of relief, but this is temporary and soon turns to
depression and guilt. Some people use laxatives, apparently
unaware that laxatives do not reduce what is refered to as fat
content, and serve only to eliminate vital trace elements that
will dehydrate the body.
The person can make frantic efforts to break from the pattern,
but the vicious binge/purge/exercise cycle, and the feelings
associated with it, may have become compulsive and
A person with bulimia may experience chemical imbalances in the
body which bring about lethargy, depression and clouded
What causes anorexia and bulimia?
The causes of anorexia and bulimia remain unclear. Biological,
psychological and social factors are all involved. For some
people, some of the following may compound low self-esteem and
contribute to the onset of anorexia or bulimia:
Social influences including magazine, television, billboards,
create an unrealistic view of the ideal shape for all of us to
be as slim and fit, with a tendency to stereotype overweight
people in a negative manner.
Changes in life circumstances such as the onset of adolescence,
breakdown of relationships, childbirth or the death of a loved
fear of the responsibilities of adulthood;
Poor communication between family members or parental reluctance
to allow independence as children mature;
a belief that love from family and friends depends on high
Biological factors This includes chemical or hormonal imbalances
(sometimes associated with adolescence).
What are the effects of anorexia and bulimia?
The physical effects can be serious, but are generally
reversible if the illnesses are tackled early. If left
untreated, severe anorexia and bulimia can be life-threatening.
Responding to early warning signs and obtaining early treatment
Both illnesses, when severe, can cause:
- harm to the kidneys;
- urinary tract infections and damage to the colon;
- dehydration, constipation and diarrhea;
- seizures, muscle spasms or cramps (resulting from chemical
- chronic indigestion;
- loss of menstruation or irregular periods;
- strain on most body organs.
Many of the effects of anorexia are related to malnutrition,
- absence of menstrual periods;
- severe sensitivity to the cold;
- growth of down-like hair all over the body; inability to think
rationally and to concentrate.
Outpatient treatment and attendance at special programs are the
preferred treatment for people with anorexia. Hospitalization
may be necessary for those severely malnourished through lack of
food. Treatment can include medication to assist severe
depression and to correct hormonal and chemical imbalances.
A Dietician along with specific therapies are used to help
change unhealthy thoughts about eating, and educating the person
that family and friends are supportive.
Where to go for help
Your family doctor. Your school or university advisor. Community
Health Clinic or center.
Or for a wide variety of important resources please visit:
About the author: Susan Murphy Milano
is the author of "Moving Out Moving On", when a relationship goes
wrong available at Borders, Walden Books, Borders, Express and
Amazon. And she is the author of "Defending Our Lives" getting away
from domestic violence & staying safe (doubleday) She lectures on
various subjects related to family issues and safety. Email address
& contact: Kindlivingpress@aol.com