We at Fairwinds Treatment Center know that anyone — male or female, jock or couch potato — can fall victim to an eating disorder. However, there may be a heightened risk for some female athletes, particularly those who compete in sports where leanness is emphasized, either for aesthetic or endurance reasons. Gymnasts, distance runners, dancers and triathletes may all find themselves struggling with anorexia, bulimia or another disorder.
Sports Medicine physician Dr. Heather Fullerton explains to The Austin American Statesman that athletes with eating disorders may think they are improving their competitive edge by adopting extreme nutritional or fitness habits, when in fact they can be hurting it. We at Fairwinds have seen firsthand how anorexia, bulimia and compulsive exercising can lead to muscle deterioration, fatigue, weakness, heart problems, kidney damage and even bone loss. Weakened bones also make an athlete more likely to suffer a stress fracture.
"It is particularly bad to lose bone when you are a teenager or young woman because that is when your body should be building bone, not losing it," Fullerton, who specializes in bone health, told the newspaper. "Hormonal imbalances can lead to more bone loss through menstrual dysfunction."
Unfortunately, many athletes with eating disorders don't acknowledge that they have a problem. Researchers in the United Kingdom recently surveyed a group of high-performing gymnasts and discovered that some who appear to have eating disorders simply consider their restrictive behaviors strategies for competitive success.
In addition to high levels of preoccupation with weight, the scientists also found some symptoms of depression among the athletes surveyed. This is unsurprising, as we at Fairwinds have long held that a strong link exists between mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, and eating disorders. The former often triggers or exacerbates the latter, and treating one without also addressing the other is a recipe for a failed recovery. That is why our globally renowned eating disorder expert, Dr. Pauline Powers, uses a unique dual diagnosis methodology to help patients heal both on the inside and the outside. Dr. Powers employs a highly personalized combination of clinical treatment and therapeutic counseling to promote deep and lasting change.
If you are a female athlete who has missed several periods, gotten one or more stress fractures and/or believes you may be suffering from an eating disorder, you should seek professional medical help. Since Fairwinds Treatment Center opened its doors in Clearwater, Florida, 25 years ago, our celebrated recovery professionals have helped countless people recover from eating disorders and drug and alcohol addictions. There is simply no better place to find healing than under the expert care of Dr. Powers. Contact us to learn more.