Nutrition, Special Populations

Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve serious disturbances in how a person eats and what a person chooses to eat. Typically, one develops an eating disorder as a result of extreme concern over body shape or weight. There are several types of eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa

Any person abnormally sensitive about being perceived as fat, or has a fear of becoming fat, may be susceptible to anorexia nervosa. An estimated 4 percent of females suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime. Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

* Resistance to maintaining normal body weight.

* Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.

* Denial of health risks associated with low body weight.

* Infrequent or absent menstrual periods (in females who have reached puberty).

Bulimia Nervosa

Men and women who live with bulimia seek out binge and purge episodes. Typically, when alone, they will eat a large quantity of food as quickly as possible and then seek to expel the food by taking laxatives or self-induced vomiting. Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

* Recurrent episodes of binge eating.

* Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications (purging); fasting; or excessive exercise.

* The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.

* Obsessive feelings of being and/or appearing overweight.

Compulsive Overeating

People suffering with compulsive overeating have an “addiction” to food. Compulsive overeating is almost always related to one’s emotional state.

Binge Eating Disorder

Individuals who suffer from binge eating may have a combination of symptoms similar to those of compulsive overeaters and bulimia. Reasons for binge eating can be similar to those of compulsive overeating. Symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:

* Recurrent episodes of binge eating.

* Eating much more rapidly than normal.

* Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.

* Eating alone.

Eating disorders are not due to a lack of will or a particular attitude toward food; rather, they are treatable medical illnesses in which certain maladaptive patterns of eating take control of one’s eating habits. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. In addition, people who suffer from eating disorders can experience a wide range of physical health complications, including serious heart conditions and kidney failure, which could lead to death.

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