Eating disorders are characterized by extreme disturbances to a person’s normal diet, occurring mostly in adolescents and teens, with the highest rate at ages 17-18. Although females are more likely to develop an eating disorder, they also occur amongst males. Other psychological issues are often present and coexist with an eating disorder, such as depression and/or anxiety. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by extreme weight loss and the unyielding pursuit of thinness. Anorexia nervosa has the following symptoms:
- Voluntary self-starvation
- Distorted body image
- Extreme fear of gaining weight and refusal to maintain a healthy weight
- Lack of menstrual periods
As anorexia nervosa progresses, the symptoms become more severe and can cause major health issues.
Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a frequent cycle of over-eating followed by purging or use of laxatives to compensate for the over-eating. People with bulimia nervosa typically maintain a normal or healthy weight. The binge-purge cycle is often done in secret due to feelings of shame or embarrassment. Common symptoms of bulimia nervosa are:
- Persistent sore throat with inflammation
- Worn tooth enamel from exposure to stomach acid
- Extreme dehydration
- Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal issues
- Electrolyte imbalance
Binge-eating disorder is characterized by the loss of control over eating. As in bulimia nervosa, binging occurs, but is not followed with purging. Those with binge-eating disorder are often overweight or obese and often feel guilt and shame for over-eating.
The symptoms of eating disorders may be life threatening. Professional counseling can be extremely effective in treating eating disorders. Treatment often entails the combined efforts of a therapist, nutritionist and medical doctor. For help with an eating disorder, contact Great Lakes Psychology Group at 800-693-1916.