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3 Common Eating Disorders Everyone Should Know About

In the United States alone, eating disorders impact approximately 20 million women and 10 million men. You can find them in all populations regardless of age, gender, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, etc. Because of the impact of their symptoms on physical health, eating disorders can cause notable medical complications and emotional distress. Compared to other mental disorders, eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate.

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. They are biologically influenced medical disorders characterised by disturbances to an individual\’s eating behaviors. These disorders can affect not just the physical health but also the mental health of a person. In some severe cases, they might also be life-threatening.

Fortunately, like other mental and physical illnesses, eating disorders are treatable! Learning more about these disorders can help you spot the warning signs at an early stage so you can seek immediate treatment for yourself or someone you love.

3 Common Types of Eating Disorders and Their Symptoms

1. Anorexia Nervosa

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), for anorexia to be diagnosed, an individual must persistently refuse energy intake and have an intense fear of becoming fat. The individual must also persistently engage in behavior that interferes with weight gain and have a distorted perception about their body shape and weight.

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Intensive exercise
  • Extremely limited diet
  • Extreme thinness
  • Persistent pursuit of becoming thin
  • Unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
  • Intense fear of becoming fat
  • Distorted body image

While individuals with anorexia usually have a body weight that is below the normal level according to their age, sex, and physical health, this is not always the case. It is impossible to decide if a person struggles with anorexia based on just their body appearance.

2. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is another common eating disorder characterized by three important features: recurrent binge eating episodes, consistent inappropriate compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain and self-evaluation influenced by body shape and weight. According to the DSM-5, a bulimic person must engage in these behaviors at least once per week for three months to meet the criteria for the diagnosis of bulimia.

Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Inflammation in throat
  • Swelling in salivary glands
  • Sensitive and decaying teeth
  • Acid reflux and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress
  • Severe dehydration from purging
  • Electrolyte imbalance that can lead to a heart attack or stroke

3. Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Lastly, the most common eating disorder diagnosis is Binge Eating Disorder (BED). It involves binge eating episodes but is very different from bulimia because it does not involve recurrent use of inappropriate behaviors. It also does not occur exclusively during anorexia or bulimia episodes. Unlike bulimia and anorexia, BED’s diagnostic criterion does not include an individual’s perception of body shape and weight. As a result, people with BED are usually overweight or obese.

Symptoms of BED include:

  • Eating exceptionally large amounts of food in a short time (2-hour period)
  • Eating even when not hungry
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating in secret to avoid shame
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty about eating
  • Dieting frequently but not experiencing any weight loss

Treating Eating Disorders

It is important to seek treatment as early as possible for eating disorders.

Treatment plans for eating disorders include medications, psychotherapy, medical care, nutritional counseling, or a combination of these four approaches. The goal of treatment is to restore adequate nutrition, bring body weight to a healthy level, reduce excessive exercise, and stop binge eating behaviors.

If you think you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please do not wait to contact a doctor. Make an appointment with a medical provider at Health One Family Medicine today by calling on (469)262-5762. You can also visit our website for more information.


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