Eating Disorders

There is a down side of nutrition. These are the disorders that develop when people do not eat correctly. There are many different disorders that occur. Three that are common are bulimia, anorexia and compulsive eating. Bulimia is purging after eating, anorexia is basically starving yourself and compulsive eating is a situation where you overeat.


Anorexia Nervosa usually occurs when a person feels that they are too fat, and never eat because of this. It is the relentless pursuit of thinness. Part of the cause is usually a mental problem of low self-esteem and denial.

Anorexia usually occurs with white, young females, from middle to upper class families who place an emphasis on high achievement, perfection and physical appearance. The age is starting from 15 and older. It usually starts off as dieting to lose a few pounds and gets increasingly worse from there.

The exact cause of anorexia is not yet determined. It could be genetically determined. Certain personality types are more vulnerable to eating disorders than others. Once it has started, anorexia can alter the brain chemistry. Psychologically, most anorexics feel inadequate. Everything they do is one extreme or the other-good or bad, success or failure. Parents who overvalue physical appearance can contribute to the eating disorder. If the thought is in the person's mind, sometimes it just takes a trigger to start the ball rolling. This often happens during a change- a new job, breakups, chaos in their life, etc.

Anorexics weigh less than 85% of the minimum for that age group. One and a half percent of anorexics are also bulimic. One percent of teenage girls in the United States develop anorexia nervosa. Without treatment, 20% of them will die. With treatment, the number falls to two to three percent.

There are certain signs to look for with anorexia. Some of these are low self-esteem, extreme weight loss, a huge fear of becoming fat, never eating, losing her monthly menstrual period, preferring to diet in isolation, exercising compulsively and commenting on their fatness. Emotionally, the person becomes depressed, irritable and starts to perform peculiar behaviors(strange eating habits).

There are treatment programs. The best recovery is with a doctor and counselor. You can learn how to properly eat and receive counseling for the problem of low self-esteem. Treatment includes maintenance of normal weight, regular menstrual periods, a varied diet, reduction of food fears, awareness of unreasonable cultural demands for thinness, engaging in other fun activities and having new goals. Drugs can be given, but only if there are specific circumstances like depression or anxiety. Counseling should be a combination of individual, group and family.


Bulimia is an illness that is characterized by uncontrolled episodes of overeating(usually within a two-hour period), followed by self-induced vomiting. Bulimia is also known as binge-purge behavior. The episodes can happen several times a day. The person will continue purging until he/she goes to sleep or has abdominal pains. To be bulimic, you have to purge at least twice a month for a minimum of three months.

The person usually knows what they are doing is wrong, and feels fear or guilt with all of the episodes. Usually the purging is done in secret. A bulimic's body weight is usually normal or low, but they may perceive themselves as overweight.

The cause of bulimia is not fully known, but is sometimes associated with family problems. Other reasons for purging are self-identity conflicts, emphasis on physical appearance and depression. A lot of time bulimics are perfectionists. They blame themselves for something going wrong and try to "punish" themselves by purging.

There are certain signs that the illness is occurring. These include binge eating, self-induced vomiting, wrong use of laxatives, an absent menstrual cycle and an overachieving behavior. Physically, the enamel of the teeth start to erode because of excessive exposure to acid when vomiting. Dehydration can start to occur.

Complications due to bulimia are pancreatitis, dental cavities, inflammation of the throat, dehydration, constipation and hemorrhoids. It can cause acute gastric dilatation and even rupture. Suspicions of this are from swollen perotill glands and scars on the knuckles of hands. Frequent headaches start to occur because of lower blood pressure and a decrease of oxygen to the brain. The heart rate begins to slow down. There is a tingling in the hands, feet and face. The bulimic will start to tire easily.

The illness occurs most often in females of adolescent age. It happens to every 2 in 10,000 people. Treatment can be given to end the problem. Therapy and family support are imperative. There are two types of treatments. One is cognitive-behavioral and the other is pharmacologic. Cognitive-behavioral therapy from a psychologist has proven to be effective. A supportive relationship with good rapport is essential with the therapist. This form of treatment focuses on self-image and self-evaluation. Antidepressive medication is usually given.

Compulsive Eating

Compulsive eating include episodes of uncontrolled eating, but the person does not purge the excess food. They feel that they have lost control of themselves when eating. They eat large quantities of food and do not stop until they are uncomfortably full. An episode of binge eating is eating within a discrete period of time(two hours), an amount of food that is larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances. There is a sense of lack of control while eating during an episode(can't stop the amount of eating). To be a binger, overeating occurs at least two days a week for a period of six months.

Most compulsive overeaters are obese, and have a history of weight fluctuations. Obesity results when the size and number of fat cells in a person's body increases. A normal-sized person has between 30-35 billion fat cells. When a person gains weight, the fat cells increase in size and then in number. If the person is overweight they can suffer from serious medical problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions.

Signs of compulsive overeating are depression, low self-esteem, binge-eating episodes, chronic dieting, obsession with weight, eating alone because embarrassed over how much their eating, feeling disgusted with how much their eating and a distorted body image. There is a decreased interest in activities that used to give plesasure, difficulty in falling asleep or oversleeping.

There is a tendency to eat more and gain weight when the person is under pressure or stress. There is an association with eating more rapidly than normal with large amounts of food when the person is not physically hungry. An increase in eating is a response to feelings of anxiety, depression or internal problems. The areas of the brain that regulate emotional responses like depression and sadness are interconnected with the parts of the brain that regulate eating.

Treatment of underlying anxiety and depression is the first step. This can often remove the urge to overeat and provide the motivation and confidence to succeed. Thirty percent of individuals seeking medical treatment for obesity and 50% of individuals seeking non-medical weight reduction programs will suffer from binge eating. Treatment includes medication(antidepressants)and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Disease Signs Treatment
Anorexia Low self-esteem, extreme weight loss,
fear of fatness, never eating,
losing period, diet in isolation,
intense exercising, depression,
proper eating habits, counseling,
varied diet, decrease in food fear,
new goals, new activities
Bulimia binge eating, self-induced vomiting,
wrong laxative use, no period,
overachieving behavior, swollen perotill glands,
scars on knuckles, headaches
therapy, family support,
Antidepressants, building self-image
Compulsive Eating binge eating, depression,
low self-esteem, obsession with weight,
chronic dieting, eating alone,
feelings of disgust, distorted body image
Anxiety relief, therapy,