Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Can Be Fatal


     Eating Disorders rank higher among women than men though both genders have distorted body image issues, leading to weight loss obsessions. Truth be told, eating disorders can affect any age group and any gender. Researchers studying the problem think that several factors may contribute to its development, including genetics, since multiple family members may have the issue.

Eating Disorders May Be Fatal

Eating disorders are often fatal due to the severe bad habits used to control food intake and weight. Warning signs of an eating disorder include preoccupations with food, body weight, and shape.  Three common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Seeking treatment soon after the onset of symptoms is critical because many individuals with eating disorders attempt suicide. Frequently severe depression and anxiety or substance abuse accompanies the disorder and contributes to the challenges they face.

While individualized treatment plans must drive the direction of care for each person, most plans include one or more of the following:

  • Individual, group, or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medications
  • Family-based therapy called the Maudsley approach, where parents of adolescents with anorexia nervosa assume responsibility for feeding their child, appears to help people gain weight and improve eating habits and moods.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Medicines such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers


National Institute of Mental Health

 National Eating Disorders  

National Association of Anorexia nervosa and Associated Disorders

Bulimia Nervosa

Girl with bulimia eating disorder hiding in bathroom to stuff herself so she can immediately purge afterwards.
Girl with bulimia eating disorder hiding in bathroom to stuff herself so she can immediately purge afterwards.

     The primary characteristic of Bulimia Nervosa is the need to use purging to control food consumption. Individuals who have Bulimia may be underweight, overweight, or of average weight. Still, they periodically lose control of their eating, and when they do, they feel guilt; they purge immediately afterward. The way they purge varies.  Some vomit while others use laxatives, aggressively exercise, take diuretics, fast, or combine a few of these for a broader approach. After purging, they feel relief from the guilt temporarily.

To find out more about Bulimia Nervosa, visit

Woman with eating disorder (Anorexia) holding plate with tape measure showing her life is focused on her weight not on what she eats.
Woman with eating disorder (Anorexia) holding plate with tape measure showing her life is focused on her weight not on what she eats.

Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms

Anorexia Symptoms  include:
  • Extremely restricted eating
  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwilling to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Refuse to keep weight at what is considered normal for age and height (15% or more below average 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


Other symptoms may develop over time, including:

  • Thinning and weakness of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Muscle wasting and weakness with no body fat
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold due to drop in internal body temperature (wearing several layers of clothing to stay warm)
  • Mild anemia leading to lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Brittle hair and nails, growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
  • Dry and yellowish skin, dry mouth
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure slowed breathing and pulse.
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Brain damage
  • Multiorgan failure
  • Infertility, no period for three or more cycles
  • Confused or slow thinking, along with poor memory or judgment.
  • Depression

     People with Anorexia may severely limit the amount of food they eat or eat and then make themselves throw up. Other behaviors include:

  • Cutting food into small pieces or moving them around the plate instead of eating
  • Exercising all the time, even when the weather is bad, they are hurt, or their schedule is busy
  • Going to the bathroom right after meals
  • Refusing to eat around other people
  • Using pills to make themselves urinate (water pills or diuretics), have a bowel movement (enemas and laxatives), or decrease their appetite (diet pills)

For additional information on Anorexia Nervosa, go to:

Binge Eating Symptoms

Symptoms of Binge Eating Include:

  • Taking in 5,000-15,000 calories in one sitting over a specific amount of time, such as 2 hours.
  • Continuing to eat even when full or not hungry.
  • Consuming food quickly during the binge episode.
  • Eating until uncomfortably full.
  • Sitting alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment over a large amount of food ordered.
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about eating.
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss.
  • Overeats throughout the day.
  • Often snacks, in addition to eating three meals a day.
Also, personal characteristics include:
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Feelings of low self-esteem
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Frequent dieting

Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms

The Symptoms of Bulimia include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth from exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals) which can lead to stroke or heart attack
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Suddenly eating large amounts of food or buying large quantities of food that disappear right away
  • Regularly going to the bathroom right after meals
  • Throwing away packages of laxatives, diet pills, emetics (drugs that cause vomiting), or diuretics

Anorexia Nervosa Has Highest Death Rate of All Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa Has Highest Death Rate

     Anorexia Nervosa has the highest death rate of any mental illness or eating disorder. Individuals with Anorexia are a perfectionist with negative self-images who see themselves as overweight even though they are probably as much as 15% or more under the average weight for their body type. They severely restrict the amount of food they eat, exercising often and vigorously while only eating when they must and forcing themselves to vomit afterward or using laxatives to purge their intestines. Many people with Anorexia die from complications of the disorder, either from starvation or suicide.

Characterized by Perfectionism

     Usually, Anorexia is seen in teens or young adults, more commonly in females than males. Your typical anorexic would be a white female from an upper-income socio-economic income bracket whose parents stressed getting into the better schools and being part of all the best extra-circular activities to get into those schools. This child’s mother may also have her entered beauty contests as a child or talent competition, always with expectations of first place.

For additional information on Anorexia Nervosa, go to:

Binge Eating is the “over-eating” type of Eating Disorder

Binge Eating chocolate cake until it's all gone even though she doesn't want it.
Binge Eating chocolate cake until it’s all gone is an eating disorder when the person eating it can’t stop themselves from eating the food even after they no longer want it.
Binge Eating

     Considered the most serious health disorder in the United States, Binge eating disorder now affects approximately 1-5% of American adults.  That might be 100% of us on Thanksgiving. Looking around, you can see that binge eating is fast becoming a growing problem in America, with 10-15% of mildly obese people in self-help groups admitting they binge eat.

What is binge eating?

     Binge eating is when you eat large amounts of food beyond the point of feeling full, taking in 5,000-15,000 calories at a time.  The typical binge-eater is over-weight, probably obese, eating alone, with feelings of sadness, embarrassment, and guilt over the large quantity of food they consume. They eat to cope with their sadness and depression, which leads to more depression and guilt overeating.


     Treatment centers around psychotherapy, medication, nutrition counseling, and group or family therapy.

For more information on binge eating, click on the following: