Eating disorders can be extremely serious, life-threatening conditions, and unfortunately, often co-exist with underlying mental health issues. An eating disorder occurs when an individual’s behavior around eating and food disrupts everyday life. This can take on many different forms, such as restricting your intake of food (anorexia nervosa), purging after a meal (bulimia nervosa), undergoing a cycle of binge eating and purging, or even obsessively exercising.
The reason that some individuals develop eating disorders and others don’t is entirely clear, but medical professionals have found that patients that experience eating disorders often have a history of other psychiatric disorders. Conditions such as mood disorders and depression often co-exist with eating disorders as well, especially in patients with bulimia. Individuals can also be genetically predisposed to eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa. One thing to look for is a pattern of obsessive-compulsive behavior, as individuals binge on food, then purge because they feel guilty thinking about what they consumed. Other warning signs that you or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder can include: eating in secret, obsessively counting calories, thinking and saying that you’re overweight when others often comment on how thin you are, the loss of more than 14 pounds in three months, making yourself sick when you feel overfull, or the sense that food and eating dominate your life.
If someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, it is important to encourage them to discuss their condition with their doctor, as early treatment is important. Because of all the underlying conditions that commonly occur with eating disorders, it is important for patients to be treated for all conditions in order to make a full recovery. Early intervention is key, and Cone Health has an exceptional network of primary care providers, dietitians and behavioral health specialists such as therapists, psychologists, social workers and other related healthcare providers who are dedicated to providing proper treatment to individuals in the community dealing with eating disorders.
Chelle Jeffery is a physician assistant at Urgent Medical & Family Care on Pomona Drive in Greensboro and a member of Cone Health Medical Staff. Jeffery has more than 17 years of experience in the medical field. She graduated from Wake Forest University’s Physician Assistant Program in 1999 after receiving her Bachelor of Science in biology from Guilford College in 1995.