Why to consider medical ID if you have an eating disorder

Posted on February 23, 2017 by kerri
Purple dragonfly, the symbol of eating disorder awareness
Image from Scrapbook Designs

February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Month. Eating disorders affect people of all ages, gender identities, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses. While eating disorders are more commonly associated with being a women’s health issue, in the United States, a quarter of anorexia and bulimia diagnoses are men living with the conditions—binge eating disorder affects men even more, at 36% of those with clinical binge eating disorder are male. [1] Eating disorders affect 30 million Americans [2]—roughly 9%—so chances are that you know someone who has experienced the effects of an eating disorder even if you are unaware that they have, if you have not yourself.

Eating disorders are not visibly obvious—a diagnosis of an eating disorder is about a person’s behaviours around eating, it is not about their weight. Eating disorders are unpredictable, and because they may last for a long time, medical ID bracelets are an important part of staying safe during recovery from anorexia or bulimia especially. Over months or years of inconsistent nutrition or malnutrition, the body slowly enters “survival mode” and works increasingly hard to stay alive: dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are the most common emergency situations that may unexpectedly
While most medical complications and emergencies from eating disorders are due to electrolyte imbalances and malnutrition, such as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and hyponatremia—a low level of sodium (salt) in the blood from consuming more water than the body can handle, also known as “water intoxication” [3]. Water intoxication can occur more quickly or be even more dangerous in someone with other complications from an eating disorder as listed above, further disrupting the balance of electrolytes (salt, potassium) in the blood [3]. Both dehydration or hyponatremia can result in altered consciousness, and even seizures when the delicate balance of electrolytes is disrupted. [3]
It is important to note as well that while a person may have a diagnosis of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, they may experience symptoms of more than one eating disorder and/or have “non-clinical” symptoms of these disorders—they have disordered eating behaviours, but do not meet diagnostic criteria for the disorder: these individuals are classified with another disorder known as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), previously known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). [4] OSFED is not a less serious type of eating disorder, and people diagnosed with OSFED may face the same health risks of more easily classified or recognized disorders. A medical ID bracelet for OSFED, like a bracelet or necklace for anorexia or bulimia, is just as important to identify your medical needs if you cannot do so yourself. Other mental health conditions, allergies and/or contact information should also be listed on your eating disorder ID necklace or bracelet.
Many individuals who are in recovery form an eating disorder may choose to wear a dragonfly bracelet or necklace to symbolize their journey [5]. This is an important symbol in the eating disorder community, however, it is important to NOT use the dragonfly symbol take the place of your eating disorder medical identification bracelet or necklace, as it may be overlooked. Many of our bracelet styles make it easy to attach an extra charm to the chain or bracelet to incorporate a dragonfly charm you may already have!
Recovery from an eating disorder is difficult: wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace from MyIdentityDoctor can help keep you safe for the journey ahead.

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