Eating disorders are most common in men and women under the age of 30, but can occur in any age group or gender. Eating disorders are characterized by a serious disturbance in eating behaviour (either eating too much or too little).
- Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa is one of the most common eating disorders. This serious illness involves drastic weight loss due to fasting and may be accompanied by excessive exercise.
- Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height;
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight;
- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight;
- Infrequent or absent menstrual periods (in females who have reached puberty);
- Viewing self as overweight, even though dangerously thin;
- Unusual eating habits, such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating these in small quantities, or carefully weighing and portioning food;
- Repeatedly checking body weight, which is usually below normal.
This involves binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting and the abuse of laxatives.
- Episodes of binge eating, characterized by eating an excessive amount of food followed by self-induced vomiting;
- Recurrent, inappropriate compensatory behaviour in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications (purging); fasting; or excessive exercise;
- Inappropriate compensatory behaviours both occur, on average, at least twice a week for at least three months;
- Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight;
- May be normal body weight.
- Binge Eating Disorder (compulsive eating)
This is often overeating, often in secret and often carried out as a means of deriving comfort.
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating, characterized by eating an excessive amount of food and by a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode;
- Binge-eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following: eating much more rapidly than normal; eating until feeling uncomfortably full; eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry; eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating; feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating;
- Marked distress about the binge-eating behaviour;
- Binge eating occurs, on average, at least two days a week for six months;
- Binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviours (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise);
- May be over normal body weight.
An eating disorder is a problematic coping strategy. People with eating disorders may feel shame about weight fluctuations, and low self-esteem may exacerbate the illness. Successful treatment involves initially stabilizing the nutritional status of the person with an eating disorder, followed by a variety of psychotherapies. Preventive interventions in high-risk populations are also showing positive results.