Eating Disorders: When Food and Weight Take Control

IMAGE Jane and Elizabeth are adhering to strict, low-calorie diets even though they are both dangerously underweight. Angela and Hank secretly eat huge amounts of food at one sitting, then make themselves vomit, and spend hours exercising. Evelyn and Fred eat huge amounts of food, and feel guilty and depressed afterward. What do these 6 individuals have in common? They all have some type of eating disorder.

What Exactly Are Eating Disorders?

In an effort to stay healthy, many people try to control the amounts of food they eat as well as their body weight and shape. Some people experience short-term alterations in their eating patterns as a reaction to a stressful life situation, or when dieting to improve their appearance and/or health. People with an eating disorder, however, think about food, weight, and body image constantly.They usually have medical and psychological issues as well. In case of serious medical complications like severe malnutrition, dehydration, or heart irregularities, hospitalization may be needed. There are 3 primary types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. They can disrupt school, work, relationships, and cause serious health problems that may require ongoing medical care. In severe cases, they can cause permanent disability and death. In an attempt to raise awareness, binge eating disorder was included in the 2013 update of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

How Common Are Eating Disorders?

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, over 30 million Americans have some kind of eating disorder. Females aged 12-25 years account for most cases. However, eating disorders also occur in males and in people of other ages. Most people develop symptoms by age 20. Eating disorders can last from several months to many years.Eating disorders occur in people of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The rate of eating disorders is higher in certain occupations, such as dance, gymnastics, and modeling, where there is excessive pressure to maintain a specific weight and appearance.

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