Eating disorders are psychological illnesses defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and mental health. A 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 spiraled out of control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape may also signal an eating disorder. The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. Possible causes of eating disorders include: biology, psychological and emotional health, society.
Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
- When you have anorexia nervosa, you're obsessed with being thin, sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation.
- When you have bulimia, you have episodes of bingeing and purging. During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short duration and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories through vomiting or excessive exercise. You may be at a normal weight or even a bit overweight.
- When you have binge-eating disorder, you regularly eat excessive amounts of food (binge), but do not try to compensate for this behavior with exercise or purging as someone with bulimia or anorexia might. You may eat when you are not hungry and continue eating even long after you are uncomfortably full. After a binge, you may feel guilty or ashamed, which can trigger a new round of bingeing. You may be a normal weight, overweight or obese.
Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses. They frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. Some symptoms can become life-threatening if a person does not receive treatment. Complications may include: Death; Heart problems; Multiple organ failure; Depression; Suicidal thoughts or behavior; Absence of menstruation (amenorrhea); Bone loss; Stunted growth; Digestive problems; Kidney damage; Severe tooth decay; High or low blood pressure. Most people with eating disorders are females, but males can also have eating disorders.
Because of its powerful pull, an eating disorder can be difficult to manage or overcome by yourself. Eating disorders can virtually take over your life. You may think about food all the time, spend hours agonizing over what to eat and exercise to exhaustion. You may feel ashamed, sad, hopeless, drained, irritable and anxious. You may also have a host of physical problems because of your eating disorder, such as irregular heartbeats, fatigue, and bowel or menstrual troubles. If you are experiencing any of these problems, or if you think you may have an eating disorder, seek medical help!
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