Dec 26, 2011 - Jan 1, 20

Eating disorders refer to a group of conditions defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual's physical and mental health. Bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are the most common specific forms of eating disorder.

The precise cause of eating disorders is not entirely understood, but there is evidence that it may be linked to other medical conditions and situations.

One study showed that foster girls are more likely to develop bulimia nervosa. Some also think that peer pressure and idealized body-types seen in the media are also a significant factor.

Research shows that for some people there is a genetic reason why they may be prone to developing an eating disorder.


The exact cause of eating disorders is commonly believed to be due to a combination of biological, psychological, and/or environmental abnormalities. It is important to remember that most eating disorders, though their signs and symptoms may be different, share a great number of common causes and emotional aspects.


Symptoms and complications vary according to the nature and severity of the eating disorder. Possible symptoms and complications of eating disorders are acne, xerosis, amenorrhoea, tooth loss, cavities, constipation, diarrhea, lanugo, water retention or edema, scurvy, cardiac arrest, hypokalemia, telogen effluvium, osteoporosis, kidney failure, brain atrophy, electrolyte imbalance, pellagra, hyponatremia, suicide and death.

Anorexia Nervosa: Those people who are suffering with this illness have a low self-esteem and often a tremendous need to control their surroundings and emotions. The eating disorder, anorexia, is a unique reaction to a variety of external and internal conflicts such as stress, anxiety, unhappiness and feeling like life is out of control. Anorexia is a negative way to cope with these emotions. New research indicates that for a percentage of sufferers, a genetic predisposition may play a role in a sensitivity to develop anorexia, with environmental factors being the trigger. The person suffering with anorexia may be abnormally sensitive about being perceived as fat, or has a massive fear of becoming fat, though not all people living with anorexia have this fear. They may be afraid of losing control over the amount of food they eat, accompanied by the desire to control their emotions and reactions to their emotions. With a low self-esteem and need for acceptance they will turn to obsessive dieting and starvation as a way to control not only their weight, but their feelings and actions regarding the emotions attached. Some also feel that they do not deserve pleasure out of life, and will deprive themselves of situations offering pleasure (including eating).

Some of the behavioral signs can be obsessive exercise, calorie and fat gram counting, starvation and restriction of food, self-induced vomiting, the use of diet pills, laxatives or diuretics to attempt controlling weight, and a persistent concern with body image. It is important to point out that there can be a number of ways a person suffering from anorexia can portray their disorders. The inherent trait of a person suffering anorexia is to attempt to maintain strict control over food intake.

Anorexics are sometimes known to eat junk food, particularly candy, drink a lot of coffee or tea, and/or smoke. They may deny hunger, make excuses to avoid eating, will often hide food they claim to have eaten, use diet pills to control appetite, or attempt to purge the food away with self-induced vomiting, or by taking laxatives.

Compulsive Overeating: People suffering with compulsive overeating have what is characterized as an addiction to food, using food and eating as a way to hide from their emotions, fill a void they feel inside, and cope with daily stresses and problems in their lives.

People suffering with this eating disorder tend to be overweight, are usually aware that their eating habits are abnormal, but find little comfort because of society's tendency to stereotype the overweight individual. Words like, "just go on a diet" are as emotionally devastating to a person suffering compulsive overeating as "just eat" can be to a person suffering anorexia.

A person suffering as a compulsive overeater is at health risk for a heart attack, high blood-pressure and cholesterol, kidney disease and/or failure, arthritis and bone deterioration, and stroke.

Men and women who are compulsive overeaters will sometimes hide behind their physical appearance, using it as a blockade against society (common in survivors of sexual abuse). They feel guilty for not being "good enough," shame for being overweight, and generally have a very low self-esteem. With a low self-esteem and often constant need for love and validation, they will turn to obsessive episodes of binging and eating as a way to forget the pain and the desire for affection.


Men and women living with binge eating disorder suffer a combination of symptoms similar to those of compulsive overeaters and bulimia. The sufferer periodically goes on large binges, consuming an unusually large quantity of food in a short period of time (less than two hours) uncontrollably, eating until they are uncomfortably full.

The weight of each individual is usually characterized as above average or overweight, and sufferers tend to have a more difficult time losing weight and maintaining average healthy weights.

Unlike with bulimia, they do not purge following a binge episode. Reasons for binge eating can be similar to those of compulsive overeating.

Binging can be used as a way to keep people away and subconsciously maintain an overweight appearance to cater to society's sad stigma "if I'm fat, no one will like me," as each person suffering may feel undeserving of love.

As with bulimia, binging can also be used as self-punishment for doing bad things, or for feeling badly about themselves.

A person suffering with binge eating disorder is at health risk for a heart attack, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, kidney disease and/or failure, arthritis and bone deterioration, and stroke.


Having an eating disorder is much more than just being on a diet.

- An eating disorder is an illness that permeates all aspects of each sufferer's life, is caused by a variety of emotional factors and influences, and has profound effects on the people and their loved ones.

- Dieting is about losing a little bit of weight in a healthy way.

- Eating disorders are about trying to make your whole life better through food and eating (or lack of).

- Dieting is about doing something healthy for yourself.

- Eating disorders are about seeking approval and acceptance from everyone through negative attention.

- Dieting is about losing a bit of weight and doing it healthfully.

- Eating disorders are about how life won't be good until a bit (or a lot) of weight is lost, and there's no concern for what kind of damage you do to yourself to get there.

- Dieting is about losing some weight in a healthy way so how you feel on the outside will match how good you already feel on the inside.

- Eating disorders are about being convinced that your whole self-esteem is hinged on what you weigh and how you look.

- Dieting is about attempting to control your weight a bit better.

- Eating disorders are about attempting to control your life and emotions through food/lack of food.

- Dieting is about losing some weight.

- Eating disorders are about everything going on in life - stress, coping, pain, anger, acceptance, validation, confusion, fear.