Eating Disorders: The Disease and Symptoms

Eating disorders fall under several different sub-sections and categories, which we will discuss. But in a nutshell, all eating disorders are psychological illnesses that are defined by aberrant eating routines that comprise either deficient/insufficient or extreme/disproportionate consumption to the point where it results one’s physical and emotional health being compromised. Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are the most common specific forms of eating disorders. Other types of eating disorders include binge eating disorder.

Bulimia nervosa is a syndrome characterized by binge eating and purging. Purging can include self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, and the practice of diuretics, enemas, and laxatives. Anorexia nervosa is categorized by intense food restriction to the point of self-starvation and excessive weight loss. The extreme weight loss often triggers women and girls who have begun menstruating to stop having menstrual periods, a disorder known as amenorrhea, although some women who meet the other criteria for anorexia nervosa still account some menstrual activity.

There are currently to specific subtypes of anorexia nervosa: the restricting type and the binge/purge type. People who suffer from the restrictive subtype lose weight by constraining food intake, often through over-exercising. The binge/purge sufferer counteracts through some form of purging. The primary difference between the two is generally the body weight of the person, in the binge/purge category are usually noticeably underweight to the point to emaciation. Those with bulimia nervosa can have a fairly healthy body weight, and can often lean towards being overweight.

Countless people with eating disorders suffer also from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), altering the way a person sees himself or herself. Studies have found that a high proportion of persons diagnosed with BDD also had some type of eating disorder, with 15% of individuals having either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. This connection between body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia stems from the idea that both BDD and anorexia nervosa are distinguished by a preoccupation with physical appearance and a distortion of body image.

The defined cause of eating disorders is not completely comprehended, but there is evidence that it may be attendant to additional medical conditions and circumstances. Cultural idealization of thinness and youthfulness have promoted to eating disorders involving disparate populations. One analysis showed that girls with ADHD have a better chance of developing an eating disorder than those not affected by ADHD. Another study implied that women with PTSD, specifically due to sexually related trauma, are more apt to acquire anorexia nervosa. One study showed that foster girls are more prone to develop bulimia nervosa. Some think that peer pressure and venerated body-types seen in the media are also a significant dynamic. Some research demonstrates that for specific people there are genetic causes why they may be disposed to developing an eating disorder. Current reports have found substantiation of a correlation between patients with bulimia nervosa and addiction/substance abuse. In addition, anxiety and personality disorders are commonplace occurrences with clients of eating disorders.

While appropriate treatment can be vastly helpful for many suffering from specific types of eating disorders, the results of eating disorders can be brutal, including death, whether from direct medical effects of disturbed eating habits or from comorbid conditions such as severe depression and/or suicidal thinking.

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