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Eating disorders and the effects on adolescents

Holidays can be difficult when one suffers form an eating disorder.

Food constantly surrounds us, and what we eat has an effect on our well-being. For adolescents, food is sometimes an additional source of stress.

"There's a lot of pressure in the media and among friends to look and dress a certain way," says Sara Karpuk, physician assistant with Mercy Medical Center. "It's just a very impressionable age group."

Eating disorders are the third leading chronic illness in adolescents behind diabetes and asthma. Those ages fifteen to twenty four are most at risk, due to what is portrayed as the perfect body.

"These patients feel so strongly and have such negative body image satisfaction that it's difficult to convince them there is a problem," says Karpuk

Most of these patients refusal to eat part of or whole meals, restrict calories, exercise excessively, and purge the body of food. Eating disorders, like anorexia, do not only affect females. That actually puts males at greater risk for complications.

"We identify anorexia as being a female problem," says Karpuk. "Boys or men that suffer from anorexia, it often isn't identified early, because we just aren't looking for it in boys like we should be."

Karpuk stresses that eating disorders are just like other disease and need to be treated as such.

"It's not something they did or caused. It's not something their parents caused," says Karpuk. "It's a disease like any other disease, and it's a hard disease and a complex disease. It's unlikely that they can beat it on their own, and they shouldn't be ashamed of it, but they really need to seek help."

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