Eating Disorders

Background

Eating disorders are usually not lifestyle choices but illnesses related to disturbances to one’s thoughts and eating habits. There are three main types of eating disorders which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders should be taken seriously as it could be fatal if left unattended.

Type of Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children, difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature and in many individuals, distorted body image. Criteria for diagnosing anorexia nervosa according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) are:

  • Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements  
  • Fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even if underweight 
  • Body Insecurity

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

The symptoms related to anorexia nervosa range from emotional and behavioral to physical. Some of those symptoms are listed below:

  • Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms
    • Dramatic weight loss 
    • Dresses in layers to hide weight loss or stay warm 
    • Is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat, grams, and dieting 
    • Consistently makes excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food 
  • Physical Symptoms
    • Noticeable fluctuations in weight [gaining and losing weight] 
    • Dry skin and nails; Brittle nails 
    • Dizziness 
    • Slow wound healing 
    • Difficulties concentrating 

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by bingeing (doing something excessively, in this case eating food) and behaviors like self-inducing vomit to undo or compensate for bingeing.

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

The symptoms related to anorexia nervosa range from emotional and behavioral to physical. Some of those symptoms are listed below:

  • Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms
    • Hoarding food in strange places 
    • Extreme mood swings (unexplained change of mood) 
    • Disappearing after eating 
    • Fear of eating in public 
    • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Physical Symptoms
    • Noticeable fluctuations in weight [gaining and losing weight] 
    • Dry skin and nails; Brittle nails 
    • Dizziness 
    • Slow wound healing 
    • Difficulties concentrating

Similar to bulimia nervosa but different in the sense that binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent periods of eating large quantity of food, sometimes to the point of discomfort and the use of unhealthy compensatory methods to undo binge-eating. There could be a loss of control over eating and this could lead to being overweight or becoming obese.

Examples of Binge-eating Disorders

  • Eating when full or not hungry 
  • Eating alone to avoid embarrassment 
  • Frequently dieting, without weight loss 
  • Eating unusually large amounts of food

It is important to know that the presence of these symptoms does not mean a diagnosis of one or more eating disorders, please consult your doctor if you see any of these symptoms. For more information on the major types of eating disorders, click on any of the buttons below.

Factors Contributing to Eating Disorders

It is necessary to note that eating disorders can affect anyone irrespective of race, gender or age. It is usually a result of a complex combination of genetics, biochemicals, social factors, physiological factors and psychological factors. While some people may be predisposed to experiencing eating disorders as a result of the factors mentioned earlier, there is no particular age group, race or gender that is more susceptible to eating disorders

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Usually the first thing to do before undergoing any form of treatment for eating disorders is to get a diagnosis. This would prevent the possibility of treating the wrong illness while also ensuring that there is medical professional monitoring the recovery process. Methods used to treat eating disorders involve some combination of psychological and nutritional counseling. Medical and psychiatric monitoring could also be included. The use of medication to help with the chemical balance of the brain is another approach that many physicians take to treat eating disorders. Medicines such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers are some of the common ones used in treating eating disorders.

Test Your Knowledge

Mental Health Eating Disorders

Find out how much you’ve learned through our resources by taking our short quiz! It covers everything on eating disorders.

1 / 6

Which are examples of binge-eating disorder?

2 / 6

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by sufficient weight gain.

3 / 6

Race, gender, and age group can increase the risk of eating disorders. 

4 / 6

Which medications are used to treat eating disorders?

5 / 6

Which is NOT a physical symptom of Bulimia Nervosa?

6 / 6

Which is NOT a type of eating disorder?

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Sources:

ADAA. “Types of Eating Disorders.” Types of Eating Disorders | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, 7 Aug. 2018, adaa.org/eating-disorders/types-of-eating-disorders#Anorexia%20Nervosa.

The National Institute of Mental Health. “Eating Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 2016, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/.

NEDA. “Anorexia Nervosa.” National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia.

NEDA. “Binge Eating Disorder.” National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed.

NEDA. “Bulimia Nervosa.” National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bulimia.

*This site content is provided for informational purposes only and does not intend to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have medical questions and/or concerns, please contact a medical professional.