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A Guide to Eating Disorders
by beckie January 6th 2009, 03:09 PM

A Guide to Eating Disorders

According to statistics, Anorexia and bulimia affect nearly 10 million women and one million men; sometimes they can be fatal if nothing is done about them. Please don’t suffer in silence, there is always someone to support you though any difficulties you may be having.

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Symptoms of anorexia include:
  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level
  • Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat”
  • Feeling “fat” or overweight despite dramatic weight loss
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape
  • Sore throat and painless swelling of the cheeks from vomiting

Hormonal Changes: Some hormone levels drop. Menstruation becomes irregular or stops completely. In males, impotence may develop.
Premature Bone Loss: Susceptibility to stress fractures and osteoporosis.
Organ Damage: Possible kidney and heart failure.
Miscellaneous: Abnormally low heart rate and blood pressure, hair loss, dry skin, cold/blue hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, insomnia, constipation.

Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimia includes eating large amounts of food--more than most people would eat in one meal--in short periods of time, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse, or over-exercising.

Bulimia is often difficult to detect. Many individuals with the disorder remain at normal body weight or above because of their frequent binges and purges, which can range from once or twice a week to several times a day. Dieting heavily between episodes of binging and purging is also common. Statistics show that 50% of those with bulimia develop anorexia. Symptoms of bulimia include:
  • Repeated episodes of binging on high-caloric food
  • Feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness
  • Purging after a binge, (typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills and/or diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting)
  • Frequent dieting, with binges alternating with severe diets
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape
  • Hiding the signs of throwing up by running water while spending long periods of time in the bathroom
  • Sore throat and painless swelling of the cheeks from vomiting

Gastrointestinal Problems: Irritation of esophagus, stomach, and throat; enlarged salivary glands.
Damaged Teeth: Gastric acids erode enamel.
Lung Irritation: At risk for aspiration while vomiting; food particles may lodge in lungs.
Chronic Loss of Body Fluids: Depletes electrolytes resulting in muscle spasms, weakness, irregular heartbeat, kidney disease, and heart failure.

Binge-Eating Disorder (also known as Compulsive Overeating) is characterized primarily by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. Contrary to those with bulimia, those with binge-eating disorder usually do not purge afterward by vomiting or using laxatives. Additionally, while there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge.

People who binge disparage their bodies and feel self-conscious about their body size and/or shape. However, not everyone who has binge eating disorder is overweight. Although body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity, most people with binge eating disorder are obese. Symptoms of binge eating may include:
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • Rapid eating
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone out of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten
  • Hiding of food because the person feels embarrassed about how much he or she is eating
  • Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt with overeating

Gastrointestinal Problems: Gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Weight Gain: Over time can lead to weight gain. Being overweight increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.

Bigorexia/Muscle Dysmorphia also known as muscle dysmorphia, is a disorder in which a person constantly worries about being too small and frail looking. This disorder is said to be the opposite of anorexia nervosa, a disorder nearly all eating disorder residential centers treat. Those with this bigorexia are not frail or underdeveloped at all and typically have large muscle mass. Muscle dysmorphia is often found in body builders and frequent gym-goers.

Inadequacy felt by those with muscle dysmorphia can have negative effects on all areas of their life, affecting relationships as well as work and school. Obsession with muscle mass and a lean body increases the risk of steroid use and an unhealthy diet which leads to major health complications. Bigorexia is more common in males than in females because women are usually under pressure to become skinnier while men are under pressure to become more muscular.


Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a disorder in which a person is extremely concerned with their outward appearance, and imagines severe flaws, or distortions, on their body. Typically these flaws are slight imperfections or are merely imagined. Flaws in the skin, hair and face are most common, although these “flaws” can appear anywhere in the body.

The ugliness felt by those with BDD draws them away from social situations that might draw attention to themselves. Body dysmorphic disorder is sometimes considered a social phobia or a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Those affected with this disorder are at an increased risk for depression and/or suicide. Plastic surgery is also common among those with this disorder. The poor body image those with BDD suffer from is common in people with eating disorders. People with eating disorders will often seek eating disorder treatment at a local eating disorder residential center in hopes of recovery.


Orthorexia Nervosa is a disorder in which a person is compulsively obsessed with eating pure and healthy food. This proper food might include organic or other foods sold in health stores. Obsession over a perfect diet is sometimes so intense that when rules are broken, those with this disorder are forced to punish themselves, often by maintaining an even stricter diet or by fasting.

Those with orthorexia nervosa obsess over what is eaten, how much of it is eaten and how it was prepared. This disorder is dangerous because the obsession with the “right” kinds of food takes over a person’s life, disabling them, and making life impossible to live due to the constant focus on food. Relationships, work, school and all other things of value become unimportant and are neglected when someone has orthorexia nervosa. Those with eating disorders such as orthorexia nervosa will often need the assistance of an eating disorder treatment center.

Night Eating Syndrome is a disorder in which a person consumes most of their calories in the evening hours. This probably occurs because of a lack of eating in the morning hours, which later is later due to the guilt felt by eating so much the night before. Often times, foods eaten later in the evening, usually after dinner, contain a lot of fat and sugar.

Sometimes, those with Night eating syndrome will get up in the middle of the night to eat. Insomnia and other sleeping problems are common in those with this disorder. Night eating syndrome is most common among overweight and obese people. Another common eating disorder which causes obesity is binge eating disorder. For these and other eating disorders, eating disorder treatment clinics are offered.

Pica is disorder in which a person has a strong desire to eat, lick, or chew non-food items. These items consist of dirt, paint chips, rust, glue, fingernails, hair, chalk, starch, cigarette ashes and clay. This disorder is common is pregnant women, small children, people with mineral deficiencies and those in developing countries who may not get enough to eat.

Accidental poisoning is perhaps the biggest hazard associated with pica. Other complications include malnutrition, damage to the teeth, tears in the intestine lining, infections, constipation and blockages in the digestive tract. Pica can be very hazardous to a person’s health, just as many other other eating disorders are. For those fearful of the consequences of their eating disorder, eating disorder residential programs offer their advice and support.

Prader-Willi Syndrome is a disorder in which a person cannot stop themselves from eating. Someone with this condition will often steal, hide food or eat the pet’s food. Mental retardation, friendliness, lack of muscular tone, obesity, short stature, incomplete sexual development and a stubborn attitude are other common factors in someone with this disorder.

The insatiable appetite of someone with prader-willi syndrome is a congenital condition, meaning it was present at birth, caused by an abnormality in the genes. This constant need for food is caused by a defect found in the hypothalamus. This part of the brain determines the hunger of a person, and with its defect, the person can never achieve a state of complete fullness.

Sleep Eating Disorder (SED-NOS)/Nocturnal Sleep-Eating Disorder is a disorder in which a person will eat and sometimes prepare their own food, while they are asleep or in a semi-conscious state. The sufferer rarely remembers these episodes and is embarrassed by their behavior. Sleep walking is frequent among those with SED-NOS.

This disorder is a combination of both a sleeping and eating disorder. More than half of its victims are women, and most sufferers are overweight or obese. Foods typically eaten in these midnight binges are often high in fat and sugar. People with this disorder often find themselves tired the next morning with feelings of anxiousness, stress or anger.

Treatment for Eating disorders:

Psychologists for counseling, body image, stress, depression, anxiety, and worries about friends.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for understanding the negative thought process and trying to change it to be healthier.
Psychiatrists for binging, obsessive thoughts, sleep problems, and depression.
Nutritionists for advice on developing a healthy campus eating plan, achieving/maintaining healthy weight, and controlling chaotic eating, purging, and over-exercise.
Physicians/Physician Assistants/Nurse Practitioners for medical evaluations, irregular menses, bone health, and anemia.
Inpatient Staff for a short term infirmary stay to help structure meals and not purge.

*For a list of hotlines regarding eating disorders, please see this thread.*
*For a list of eating disorder resources and websites, please see
this thread.*

Sources:
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chd/resources/eating/index.html
http://www.casapalmera.com/articles/...ing-disorders/
http://www.channel4.com/life/microsi...isorder_a.html
http://www.focusas.com/EatingDisorders.html

Last edited by eunoia; May 10th 2009 at 02:46 PM.
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