Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) – 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. 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. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

According to a recent study, about 3 percent of U.S. adolescents are affected by an eating disorder, but most do not receive treatment for their specific eating condition.

Anorexia nervosa displays the following symptoms:

  • 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

 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
  • Multiorgan 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 the most common eating disorder.  It is characterized by:

  • Preoccupation with food and weight
  • Binging and a compensation for binging by purging
  • Excessive exercise or fasting
  • Shame and secrecy

Binge-eating Disorder is characterized by:

  • Binging
  • Feelings of shame and self-hatred associated with binging, but not accompanied by purging

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified covers all maladaptive eating behaviors that do not fit into the above diagnoses. Examples include: restricting food intake, meeting some but not all of the requirements for above diagnoses, chewing food and spitting it out, or binging and purging irregularly.

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Children’s Mental Health Matters Eating Disorders Fact Sheet