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Eating Disorder

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is an illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. Any person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more would go out of control.

Eating disorders are serious behavior problems. They can include severe overeating or not consuming enough food to stay healthy. They also involve extreme concern about your shape or weight. Women are more likely than men to have eating disorders. They usually start in the teenage years and often occur along with depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

Different types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

in which you become too thin, but you don’t eat enough because you think you are fat

Bulimia Nervosa

which involves periods of overeating followed by purging, sometimes through self-induced vomiting or using laxatives

Binge Eating

which is out-of-control eating


Many people with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight, even when they are clearly underweight. Eating, food, and weight control become obsessions. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, portion food carefully, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by:

  • Extreme thinness (emaciation),
  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight,
  • Intense fear of gaining weight,
  • Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight,
  • Lack of menstruation among girls and women,
  • Extremely restricted eating.

Some who have anorexia nervosa recover with treatment after only one episode. Others get well but have relapses. Still others have a more chronic, or long-lasting, form of anorexia nervosa, in which their health declines as they battle the illness.

Other symptoms may develop over time, including:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis),
  • Brittle hair and nails,
  • Dry and yellowish skin,
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo),
  • Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness,
  • Severe constipation,
  • Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse,
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart,
  • Brain damage,
  • Multi-organ failure,
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time,
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time,
  • Infertility.


Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors.

Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy or normal weight, while some are slightly overweight. But like people with anorexia nervosa, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binge-eating and purging cycle happens anywhere from several times a week to many times a day.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat,
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area,
  • Worn tooth enamel, increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid,
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems,
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse,
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids,

Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals) which can lead to heart attack


With binge-eating disorder a person loses control over his or her eating. Binge eating means eating a large amount of food in a short period of time. Most of us may overeat during a special occasion, like a holiday. But people who have this disorder binge eat on a regular basis and feel a lack of control over their eating. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are over-weight or obese.  People with binge eating disorder are usually very upset by their binge eating and may experience stress, trouble sleeping, and depression. Most people who binge eat feel ashamed and try to hide their problem. People with binge-eating disorder who are obese are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. They also experience guilt, shame, and distress about their binge-eating, which can lead to more binge-eating.

How does one know s/he has Binge-Eating Disorder?

Most of us overeat from time to time, and some of us often feel we have eaten more than we should have. Eating a lot of food does not necessarily mean that you have binge eating disorder.

People who have binge eating disorder –

  • Eat a large amount of food in a short period of time (for example, within 2 hours).
  • Feel a lack of control over their eating. For example, they may feel that they cannot stop eating or control what or how much they are eating.

People who have binge eating disorder may also

  • Eat much more quickly than usual.
  • Eat until uncomfortably full.
  • Eat large amounts of food even when not really hungry.
  • Eat alone.

Feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating