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Essay on Eating Illnesses and Disorders

Where eating disorders are concerned, it is important to begin by understanding that these are a type of mental disorder that prevent humans from consuming amounts of food that are reasonable and normal. Often, eating disorders lead to other severe health issues and even to death as sometimes happens in cases of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. 

The health of human beings is also negatively impacted by binge eating, which is another form of eating disorder, but this does not usually result in death. It is essential to understand that every type of eating disorder involves some form of psychologically-induced distress, often a severe form. Typically, anyone who suffers from an eating disorder is usually obsessed with dieting, food consumption, and/or body image. An inappropriate or insufficient diet generally reduces the quality of the individual’s life and jeopardizes their health to a considerable extent. Most people who suffer from eating disorders do not usually recognize or acknowledge they have a problem and either neglect or refuse to have corrective medical treatment. Abnormal eating habits are often concealed from other people. Therefore, they may take some years to come to light and treat. Consequently, it is crucial to detect an eating disorder early. According to Basow (34), an eating disorder largely depends on the eating patterns a sufferer develops in their present mental state. If undetected, these habits are usually believed by the sufferer to be normal and barely alter later on in the patient’s life. The sooner the eating and underlying mental disorder are detected, the better chance the person has of recovering and the better chance their health will be saved from deteriorating.

As mentioned earlier, the most usual and most harmful forms of eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia nervosa. One symptom related to bulimia nervosa is binge eating but the two differ somewhat in the manner of food consumption. Those who suffer from binge eating often tend to eat small quantities of food frequently but keep this in the stomach rather than regurgitate it as is the case with bulimia sufferers. Orthorexia is another obsessive eating disorder that involves consuming large quantities of what is believed to be the right type of foods e.g. proteins, fish, vegetables, and/or raw food products. A person’s health can become damaged by eating excessive quantities of these foods. Other food-related phobias exist as well as the view that some foods can or cannot be consumed, or should or should not be consumed. Of the more unusual food disorders according to Bauer (71) is pica and is possibly the worst. This involves the regular eating of foods that are not usually edible such as bone, dirt, fabric, hair, paper, plastic, wood, or the scales of fish.

School nurses should understand that, like adults, children are prone to mental health issues and, therefore, to eating disorders. Hence, they should become actively involved in the ways described below if they see any signs of eating problems:

The first stage (descriptive): Nurses should be educated in eating disorders and the mental health problems that usually cause them. This means a lot of research and observation is required to fully understand the issues and their remedies without putting the patient at further or unnecessary risk.

The second stage (predicting): This involves nurses researching and identifying high-risk groups and those who are most likely to suffer eating disorders. They would need to learn the most appropriate ways to approach potential sufferers and offer counseling. An overweight, timid, shy, unsociable, or disabled student, or a student who suffers stress as a result of poor scholarly performance, for example, might already have an eating disorder or be at risk of developing one. Nurses should select, group, and counsel these students.

The third stage (explaining): This is the stage where nurses should speak to affected students either on an individual basis or in smallish groups to explain how their eating patterns are linked to mental state. Nurses should encourage the students to consider their present diets and compare these to the balanced or ‘optimal’ diet the nurse suggests as a better option. This will help students understand how stress is often the cause of eating and mental health disorders. The aim here is to suggest to students that eating disorders may develop at some point during their educational years. Once a student knows how to identify they have an eating disorder, they should look for professional assistance and advice, rather than ignore the issue, as so many eating disorder patients are prone to doing.

The fourth stage (prescriptive): it is during this stage that nurses recommend that students adhere to balanced diets, interact socially with family and peers to a sufficient extent, and partake in sports clubs or other activities that interest them. Nurses should explain that the state of mental health is dependent on stress levels and they should advise on ways of reducing this and, therefore, eating disorders.