Conditions InDepth: Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are serious disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating. They are accompanied by feelings of distress or excessive concern about body shape or weight. The main types of eating disorders are
Eating disorders often develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but some reports indicate they can start during childhood or later in adulthood. Females are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder. Males make up an estimated 5%-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia, and an estimated 35% of those with binge eating disorder.
Eating disorders frequently occur with other psychiatric conditions, such as
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which you have an obsession with dieting and exercise, leading to excessive weight loss. You are generally considered to be anorexic when you do not maintain your body weight at or above 85% of your expected weight. An estimated 0.5%-3.7% of females suffer from anorexia nervosa at some point in their lifetime.
If you have bulimia nervosa, you feel overly concerned with your weight and body image. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which you compulsively eat large amounts of food. This is called binging. Then, you use unhealthy means (eg, vomiting, taking laxatives or water pills) to purge or rid your body of the food. You may also (or instead) diet vigorously or engage in extreme amounts of exercise to use up calories taken in through binging. An estimated 1.1%-4.2% of females have bulimia nervosa at some point in their lifetime.
Binge Eating Disorder
If you have binge eating disorder, you eat excessive amounts of food within a short period of time. Episodes of binge eating are associated with at least three of the following:
- Eating considerably more rapidly than normal
- Eating until you feel uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food although you don’t feel hungry
- Eating alone due to embarrassment about the amount of food you eat
- Feeling disgusted about yourself, depressed, or guilty about your eating behavior
During an episode you feel a lack of control over your eating. On average, binge eating occurs at least two days a week for six months. You do not purge your body of the excess calories; therefore, you may be overweight for your age and height. During and after a binge, you feel self-disgust and shame, which can lead to another binge. Community surveys have estimated that between 2%-5% of Americans experience binge eating disorder in any six-month period.
Eating disorders. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/eatingdisorders.html . Accessed April 8, 2007.
Eating disorders: facts about eating disorders and the search for solutions. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/eatingdisorders.cfm . Accessed April 8, 2007.
General information. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/site/anadweb/content.php?type=1&id=6982 . Accessed April 8, 2007.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/site/anadweb/ .
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ .
Yager J, Devlin MJ, Halmi KA, et al. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders. 3rd ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2006. Available at: http://www.psych.org/psych_pract/treatg/pg/EatingDisorders3ePG_04-28-06.pdf . Accessed April 8, 2007.
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