disorders are considered developmental and psychiatric disorders
because they have a complex array of causative factors that include
emotional, familial, cultural and biological elements.
An eating disorder often brings a sense
of control, achievement and power to a person as he or she seeks to
control their environment by controlling food intake.
Eating disorders are very easy to
understand when you look at each disorder individually, its possible
progression and the factors that can trigger or exacerbate it. It is
very important to understand that eating disorders can progress to
serious mental and physical health problems. For that reason, early
diagnosis and treatment are critical to recovery.
The three most common eating disorders
Related problems often
- Difficulty communicating anger,
sadness or fear
- Difficulty dealing with
- A need to please others, excessive
concern about gaining approval from friends, parents or others in
- Perfectionism, always striving to be
- Low self-esteem, tending to withdraw
from others for fear of being seen as less than perfect
- Problems with identity�not certain
of who he or she is, or where he or she is going in life.
- A history of sexual or physical
1. Binge Eating Disorder
It is the sense of loss of control and
not the amount of food eaten that defines binge eating. Binge Eating
Disorder (BED) can be triggered by excessive dieting, depression, anxiety, or
even tension that is relieved by binge eating.
Everyone living with BED suffers a
combination of symptoms similar to those of Bulimia. The sufferer
periodically goes on binges, consuming an unusually large quantity
of food in a short period of time (less than two hours),
uncontrollably eating until he or she is uncomfortably full.
Unlike with Bulimia, there is no
purging after a binge episode. Eating binges are used as a way to
hide from emotions, to fill a void felt inside, and to cope with
daily stresses and problems.
The following typical symptoms of
BED in no way represents what a sufferer feels or experiences
in living with the illness:
- Mood swings
- Insomnia; poor sleeping
Binging can be used to keep others
away, and, as with Bulimia, binging can be used as self-punishment,
or as a way to make the sufferer feel bad about himself or
A person with BED is at risk for a
heart attack, high blood pressure and cholesterol, kidney disease
and/or failure, arthritis and bone deterioration, and stroke.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An
episode of binge eating is characterized by the following:
- Eating, within any two-hour period,
an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would
eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
- A sense of lack of control over
eating during the episode (a feeling that one cannot stop eating
or control what or how much one is eating)
- Marked distress regarding binge
- Engaging in binge eating, on
average, at least two days a week for six
The binge eating episodes are
associated with at least three of the following:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably
- Eating large amounts of food when
not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of
embarrassment about how much one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself,
depressed or very guilty after overeating.
Binge eating is not associated with the
regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (purging,
fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during
the course of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa.
- Bulimia is the loss of control over
purging of food, not the amount of food eaten.
are more likely to develop Bulimia Nervosa than males, people of
any age, sex or race can develop the disorder.
- While not everyone with bulimia
makes themselves vomit, all regularly use inappropriate behavior
in response to overeating. Bulimia consists of finding ways to rid
your body of that food (purging).
Purging usually includes self-induced:
- Misuse of laxatives, diuretics,
enemas or other medications
- Fasting to compensate for an eating
- Exercising excessively to compensate
for an eating binge.
This binge-purge cycle causes serious
mental and physical health problems. Early diagnosis and treatment
of Bulimia is very important for recovery and for reducing the
chances of serious health issues, heart or stomach problems as a
result of repeated vomiting or malnutrition.
Treatment for Bulimia is usually
effective and includes psychiatric counseling, medication and
regular physical health monitoring.
Symptoms of Bulimia
- Recurring episodes of eating an
unusually large amount of food within a short period of time (two
hours) and a sense of lack of control over how much is
- Recurring inappropriate responses to
overeating, such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or
misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications
- Binge-purge episodes occurring at
least twice a week for three months or longer.
Some related disorders commonly occur
along with Bulimia Nervosa, which may make treatment more
Most people who have Bulimia can be
successfully treated without being admitted to a hospital or eating
disorder treatment center; however, sometimes admission is
Damage to the digestive tract is a
serious complication of Bulimia. You must call your
doctor immediately if you:
- Are not able to pass urine
- Notice that your heart skips beats
or beats more slowly than normal
- Have severe abdominal pain; vomit up
blood; or have black, sticky (tarry) stools.
In general, people who actively
participate in their treatment and do not have any other conditions
(such as depression) recover more quickly than those who are
reluctant to participate in treatment and also have other
Anorexia is very difficult to treat
because the person may resist medical treatment as unnecessary, or
intensely fear gaining weight. People with Anorexia who also have
other conditions such as Bulimia Nervosa or depression need ongoing
- Anorexia is considered a lifelong
illness. People who have Anorexia usually must continue combined
physical and mental health treatment for a period that can range
from several months to years.
- About 40% of individuals with
Anorexia will recover. Another 30% will improve. The remaining 30%
will have problems with Anorexia throughout their lives. People
with Anorexia who are of normal weight, who are young, and who
start treatment early in their illness usually do
Hospitalization or admission to an
eating disorder treatment facility is sometimes needed to manage
Anorexia. In this setting, a team of health professionals will treat
the patient until he or she is well enough for outpatient care.
Symptoms of Anorexia
- Weighs 85% or less
of what is expected for age and height, or fails to make expected
weight gains during a period of growth;
- Has an intense fear
of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight;
- Has a distorted body
image (seeing the body as fat when it really is too thin);
evaluates self-worth by body shape and weight;
- Denies the
seriousness of being underweight or the recent drop in
- Has stopped having
menstrual cycles (missed at least three consecutive periods). Or,
if the female child is at a pre-puberty age, does not get her
menstrual cycle when expected;
- May become obsessed
with exercising too much or too frequently, possibly injuring
joints such as the knee;
- May induce vomiting
or abuse laxatives or diuretics to lose weight.
There are no specific tests to diagnose
Anorexia. The person is usually first seen by a health professional
for other complaints related to Anorexia, which may
- Fatigue and lack of
- Abdominal pain,
- Absence of menstrual
- Frequent vomiting
(although the person does not admit it is self-induced)
- Symptoms of depression
- Joint pain (from
Long-term or severe Anorexia can cause
serious medical complications:
- Osteoporosis, resulting from a lack of calcium in the diet
as well as too much cortisol and too little estrogen in the body.
The teenage years are critical bone-forming years
injuries from too much exercise
- Fractures, which are common in female athletes who have
an eating disorder, osteoporosis, and irregular menstrual cycles
(known as the female athlete triad)
function problems, often due to chronic dehydration or abuse of
- Heart problems such
as irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure (hypotension)
or tooth decay.
If left untreated, many of these
conditions can lead to death. Up to 15% of those with Anorexia
Nervosa who also have major depression will eventually die from
complications of malnutrition or suicide.