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Understanding Eating Disorders (Part 1)

February 23, 2017

Understanding Eating Disorders (Part 1)

Eating disorder is any eating behavior that exerts a negative influence on an individual’s health. According to statistics, over 20 million American females and 10 million males suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder. These diseases are treatable, but, if left without attention, they can become life-threatening. Today, due to the prevalence of eating disorders, it is important to increase people’s awareness of them.

Common Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa 

Self-induced weight loss, abnormal eating patterns and psychological factors (low self-esteem, negative body image, and fear of gaining weight). Approximately 1 in 200 American women is affected by anorexia. This disorder is characterized by such physical symptoms as absent or irregular menstrual cycles, brittle hair, irregular heartbeat, cold sensitivity, dizziness, insomnia, and osteoporosis. Its emotional symptoms include anxiety, social withdrawal, the overuse of diuretics, enemas and laxatives, excessive dieting and exercising, etc. Anorexia is associated with such complications as heart diseases, kidney problems, anemia, bone loss and gastrointestinal ailments. The mortality rate is high: 20% of cases result in fatal outcomes.

Bulimia Nervosa

Two behavioral patterns: eating excessive amounts of food and attempting to get rid of the excessive calories by unnatural ways (either self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise and fasting). Bulimia is detected in about 1.5% of American women. It is manifested by such physical symptoms as a chronic sore throat, swollen gums, tooth decay, gastrointestinal problems, and abnormal levels of electrolyte counts. The common emotional symptoms are an obsession with a body image, excessive fear of weight gain, and uncontrolled eating behavior. Untreated bulimia can lead to such complications as heart diseases, severe dehydration, and laxative dependence. The mortality rate of this eating disorder equals 3.9%.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Excessive eating followed by the feeling of guilt and shame. Since BED isn’t accompanied by excessive exercising or purging, most people who suffer from this disease (which is almost 3% of the American population) are obese. They manifest such symptoms as constant overeating (usually until the feeling of discomfort emerges) and using food to overcome emotional troubles. The complications include heart diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety. About 5% of patients with BED die of it.


A combination of behaviors inherent of different other eating disorders. It is manifested by such symptoms as severe weight loss, irregular menstruation, sings of frequent vomiting, fatigue, obsession with food, low self-esteem, severe dieting, excessive exercise, and irritability while eating. EDNOS may result in a number of complications, including heart diseases, gastrointestinal issues, renal failure, osteoporosis, and infertility.


A healthy concern over proper eating that has turned into an obsession with food standards. Its symptoms include the complete elimination of some foods from the diet, negative emotions about not eating healthy foods, and guilt felt in case of any deviation from the diet. Complications of orthorexia include the development of other eating disorders, malnutrition, social isolation, depression, and anxiety. 

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