When Medical Conditions Hide Underlying Eating Disorders
Millions of people suffer with eating disorders every day, many of whom go undiagnosed. Conditions like bulimia, anorexia and binge-eating disorder often produce symptoms that are similar to other medical conditions. In fact, some eating disorders are actually caused by a medical condition. For example, anorexia – a loss of appetite for food – is not always an emotional disorder fueled by a desire to lose weight. Rather, it can also be a secondary medical condition in which a person loses his or her appetite because of other health conditions, such as GERD, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease.
Though primary diseases are usually easy to diagnose, patients may feel reluctant to reveal secondary eating disorders because of the cultural stigmas that are often associated with them. Alternatively, an eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia, may be a mental illness, yet continue undiagnosed or complicated by unrelated health problems that produce symptoms similar to those of eating disorders. Often, people with a primary eating disorder will attempt to hide the condition by making a self-diagnosis of another condition, such as a food intolerance or gastrointestinal disease.
Since most eating disorders produce an unhealthy body mass index (BMI), anyone with a BMI that is too high or too low should be thoroughly evaluated by an eating disorder specialist – even if the symptoms are believed to be caused by a pre-existing health condition. By working together with a specialist and a nutritionist, patients with eating disorders can learn to eat healthful, balanced diets and maintain a healthy weight. Our Eating Disorders Specialist Marilyn Brown, LMFT assists individuals and their families with eating disorders recovery