Types & Symptoms of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders — such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder — include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males.
Anorexia nervosa typically appears in early to mid-adolescence and is the inadequate food intake leading to a weight that is clearly too low. This disorder creates an intense fear of weight gain, obsession with weight and persistent behavior to prevent weight gain. The person’s self-esteem is overly related to body image, and they have an inability to recognize the severity of the situation. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of anorexia nervosa sufferers are girls and women, and between 0.5 to 1 percent of American women suffer from this disorder. Between 5 to 20 percent of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die. The probability of death increases within that range, depending on the length of the condition.
Eating disorders experts have found that prompt intensive treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of anorexia nervosa:
- Dramatic weight loss
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams and dieting
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.)
- Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss
- Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat”
- Denial of hunger
- Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate)
- Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen - despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories taken in
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
Anorexia nervosa involves self-starvation. The body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally, so it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This “slowing down” can have serious medical consequences: