Sunday, February 22, 2015

USA: #IHadNoIdea Weight loss and a "suddenly healthy" BMI could indicate illness and neither did the DOCTORS!

Eating Disorders are brain-based, biological illnesses with a strong genetic component and a psychosocial influence. They are not disorders of choice, vanity or family dysfunction. As with autism and schizophrenia, we don't know everything, but we do know we were wrong about a lot for a very long time. Help us challenge stigma and fight for resource parity for these deadly disorders!

Tara-Leigh Tarantola thought she knew what a person with anorexia looked like: "This really tiny, little, thin girl who won't eat." In other words, not her son, Zachary Haines, a happy-go-lucky teenager who once had a football player's bulky build.
But when Haines was hospitalized last spring after dropping more than 100 pounds, Tarantola for the first time heard the diagnosis applied to her child.
"I broke down because I couldn't believe that a doctor was telling me that he could have died at any moment, yet all of these other doctors wouldn't even take me seriously," says Tarantola. She had repeatedly pleaded with a primary-care physician, two endocrinologists, a liver specialist and nutrition experts to address Haines's exercise and eating patterns, which she knew were making him sick. "They kept telling me how wonderful it was that he had lost 100 pounds."
Like many people with eating disorders, Haines had restricted his caloric intake, exercised excessively and obsessed over his physique. He was irritable, constantly cold and doubled over with stomach pains after eating. At one point, his pulse dropped to 26 beats per minute (anything below 40 can send someone to the emergency room).
"All of the signs were there," Tarantola says.
But because Haines was once considered obese and never dropped to what the body mass index charts indicate as "underweight," his dramatic weight loss was overlooked, even applauded. For more than a year, the clinicians "didn't seem to think anything was wrong," says Haines, now a sophomore in recovery at Temple University in Philadelphia.
The above is taken from a timely and fascinating story on the American Psychological Association Website that reflects on how our focus on obesity is meaning missed diagnosis on eating disorders. In the co-ed online support group Eating Disorder Parent Support we consistently hear stories from parents who are worried about their children's new eating habits, but have concerns brushed aside because their child is "still on the chart." 
BMI charts don't take individual growth patterns into account and this is a dangerous practice that must be halted. If a child is always in the 50% for height and the 75% for weight, a drop to 50% and 50% is an enormous red flag that must be looked into. When weight drops from the 95% to the 5% the fact that 5% is "still on the chart" means nothing in terms of health.
One of the most important pieces of work we Eating Disorder Awareness Advocates and Activists have in front of us is to get an appropriate quantity and quality of education on eating disorders into medical schools. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, greater even than some cancers, and still it can took Tara-Lynn a year of searching for answers to get someone to recognize what should have been one of the first things looked for with her son's symptoms.
Eating disorders happen to males, they happen to people of color, they happen to people in non-Westernized countries and they have happened in all eras. When a zebra walks into a room, a doctor needs to recognize it as a zebra--this is, after all, why go to the doctor.

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