There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Anorexia is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight. It generally affects young women but can occur in anyone. It is a severe illness wherein hormone levels change from low weight and lack of body fat. Proportionally, anorexia has the highest death rate of all mental health issues with 5-20% dying from it. Bulimia is the second major eating disorder characterized by binging (eating a lot of food in a short period of time) and then trying to prevent weight gain by getting rid of the food, called purging. 5 to 10 million females and one million males struggle with eating disorders.


A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if there are symptoms of an eating disorder. Anorexia is diagnosed when: 1) there is refusal to maintain body weight appropriate to height and age and is often less than 85% of expected weight, 2) they have an intense fear of gaining weight even when underweight, 3) the person experiences a distorted body image and sees themselves as fat, 4) the loss of one’s menstrual cycle.


Bulimia is diagnosed when: 1) there are recurrent episodes of binge eating characterized by consuming unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time and feeling a lack of control when eating, 2) compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas, diuretics, fasting, excess exercise, 3) the behavior is occurring at least twice weekly for three weeks. Binge eating disorder is still a proposed diagnosis but symptoms include: 1) eating too much in a short period of time, 2) eating when not hungry, 3) feeling like you can’t stop eating, 4) eat faster than normal when binging, 5) eat to the point of being painfully full, 6) feel depressed or guilty when overeating, 7) eat alone due to embarrassment.

Anorexia and bulimia cause serious physical problems including hormone irregularities, kidney dysfunction, bone density loss, heart conditions, electrolyte imbalances, throat and esophagus issues, anemia, and tooth decay. Risk factors include a family history of eating disorders, western culture influence of the female depiction of beauty, traumatic events, and personality traits such as perfectionism.

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