What is Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders Definition

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 Anorexia , Bulimia Nervosa , and Binge Eating Disorder.

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 Depression , Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction , and Anxiety. In addition, people with eating disorders can experience a range of physical health complications. While some of these are minor, others can cause serious heart conditions, Kidney Failure , and even death.

Anorexia Nervosa

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.

Bulimia Nervosa

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.


Learn what Eating Disorders is
What It Is
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Eating Disorders Causes
What causes Eating Disorders? Learn what the medical community has uncovered.
Eating Disorders Risk Factors
Risk Factors
Are you at risk of getting Eating Disorders? Inside you'll find known risk factors for the condition.
Eating Disorders Diagnosis
How will your doctor diagnose you with this condition? Learn about the tests, process, and more.
Eating Disorders Symptoms
What are the Eating Disorders symptoms? Are you showing any? Learn more today.
Eating Disorders Complications
Can this condition lead to other health problems? Learn more about the known complications.

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Screening for Eating Disorders
Learn more about the specific tests or exams given by your doctor to screen for Eating Disorders.
Eating Disorders Medications
What medications offer relief or help with this condition? Are there side effects? Risks? Learn more.
Eating Disorders Prevention
How can you prevent Eating Disorders? Read what the medical community suggests for prevention methods.
Eating Disorders Treatment
Can this condition be treated? What Eating Disorders treatment options are available?
Eating Disorders Care
Learn more about the day to day care of this condition. Changes to your activity, diet, exercise, and more.
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright ©2014 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved. Source: EBSCO