James Hicks, M.D., 50 SIGNS OF MENTAL ILLNESS (Yale University Press)

Dr. James Hicks
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Appetite Disturbances

You thought you were doing better this semester, but your report card was a disaster. You got two B's and a C. You run all the way home from school and head straight for the refrigerator freezer, where you find an unopened quart of strawberry ice cream. Your mother won't be home for a couple of hours, so you'll have time to run out and get some more, you think, as you start scooping straight out of the container and into your mouth. You've been starving all day. You had just a banana for breakfast and nothing for lunch. The ice cream feels cool and creamy. Nothing else makes you feel this good. You realize you're eating more than you need. In fact, you've nearly consumed the whole quart, and your stomach is starting to hurt. But you want to finish it off. There's no point in leaving just a few scoops at the bottom.

You take the empty container outside to the trash so no one will find it. On your way back into the house, you feel nauseated. Why did you do it? Now you just have more calories to burn off. Couldn't you have stopped after a bite or two? Your whole life is out of control. Your grades are bad, you're overweight, and you can't control your eating. You head upstairs to the bathroom, bend over the toilet, and vomit. You keep going until all of the ice cream is out of your stomach and you feel the cleansing burn of acid in your mouth. You flush, rinse your mouth, and spray air freshener around the room.

This chapter covers the following topics:

  • Appetite Disturbances
  • Anorexia Nervosa Is an Illness of Eating too Little
  • In Bulimia, Binge Eating Is Followed by Purging
  • Obesity Is Usually a Metabolic, Not Psychiatric, Illness
  • Appetite and Eating Are Disturbed in Several Other Mental Illnesses
  • How to Cope with Appetite and Eating Disturbances


This excerpt may not be reproduced without written permission from the publishers.
Fifty Signs of Mental Illness: A Guide to Understanding Mental Health
Yale University Press / New Haven and London
Copyright © 2005 by James Whitney Hicks

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