What are eating disorders?
disorders are illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits that
adversely impact physical or mental health. Though eating disorders primarily
affect females, particularly teenagers and young adults, males can also suffer
Types of eating disorders.
common eating disorders are
anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating
- Anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by an
intense fear of gaining weight, involves very restricted eating and the pursuit
of an extremely low body weight (at all costs.)
- Bulimia nervosa involves recurrent episodes of
binging (eating unusually large amounts of food) followed by compensatory
behaviors such as vomiting, using laxatives or compulsive exercise.
- Binge eating disorder involves compulsive episodes of
overeating without the compensatory behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa.
eating disorders include compulsive overeating, pica (compulsive eating,
chewing or licking of non-food items such as paper, cigarette ashes or chalk) and
purging disorder (vomiting or other elimination behaviors in the absence of
Causes of eating disorders.
exact cause of these disorders is unknown, a combination of genetic,
psychological, environmental and social factors is thought to play a role.
Often, individuals suffering from eating disorders have low self-esteem, depression,
anxiety, loneliness or other
co-occurring conditions. Peer and
cultural factors, including narrow definitions of beauty; the glorification of
thinness; and an emphasis on appearance over character, may also contribute to
the development of eating disorders. Genetic influences, such as a history
of eating disorders in the family, may also be at play. Finally, individuals with
eating disorders may have a history of physical or sexual abuse or other
Effects of eating disorders.
disorders can have serious physical and psychological consequences. Patients
with eating disorders are often extremely malnourished. Many suffer from
electrolyte imbalances, osteoporosis, constipation, diarrhea and dental
problems. More serious complications, such as cardiac arrest, kidney
failure, brain atrophy, death and suicide, also result from eating disorders.
Treating eating disorders.
various treatment options are available to those suffering from eating
Treatment varies depending on the type and
severity of the disorder, as well as the existence of co-occurring
disorders. Typically, cognitive-behavior therapy, nutrition counseling and medical interventions are part of a comprehensive treatment program. In
some cases, inpatient treatment programs are necessary.