Eating disorders are characterized by a disturbance of eating or an eating-related behavior. This disturbance significantly affects physical health and psychosocial functioning. Eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder. All three can have emotional, behavioral, and physical effects on the individual and can even be life-threatening for both males and females.
Bulimia is a disorder where the individual binges followed by purging. Bulimics have a fear of gaining weight; however, this does not mean that all bulimics are thin. Many bulimics are overweight and purging is a way in which to maintain weight. Bulimics can consume thousands of calories in one sitting and purge either through vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise. There are many health risks associated with bulimia including heart arrhythmias, tooth decay, erosion of the enamel of the teeth, and even fertility issues. With repeated purging, the esophagus can become inflamed or the stomach can show signs of tearing. The associated behaviors of bulimia include shopping for the food, hiding the food from others, and eating in isolation. Bulimics will engage in dishonest behavior to hide how many calories were consumed and there are associated family problems that arise from a bulimic family member.
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder where the individual has an extremely low body weight relative to the individual’s height and weight. Individuals with anorexia have an illogical fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. They see a “fat” person when in reality the person may only weigh 80 pounds. There are two types of anorexia, which are binge/purge type and restrictive. With the binge/purge type, the individual will purge after eating. There are feelings of guilt and shame associated with the binge/purge type and many will purge through the use of laxatives, vomiting, or excessive exercise. The restrictive form of anorexia is seen when an individual will restrict the number of calories eaten to the point where the individual is actually starving themselves.
Eating disorders are complex disorders influenced by several factors. The cause of eating disorders is relatively unknown but there does exist certain characteristics common with both disorders.
· Irregular hormones
· Nutritional deficiencies
· Poor self-esteem
· Distorted self-image
· Stressful living environment
· Problems with family members
· Peer pressure
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