Eating disorders are serious mental health disorders that affect both men and women of all ages. About 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder. They often appear during adolescence or early adulthood, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Even so, these types of disorders can develop at any time and often coexist with other mental illnesses (usually anxiety and/or depression).
Types of Eating disorders
Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common eating disorders. It is characterized by extreme thinness. People with the condition have an abnormal fear of gaining weight and often suffer from a warped body image. It isn’t uncommon for people with anorexia to view themselves as overweight, even though others around them perceive them as too thin. Self-starvation and excessive exercise are at the core of anorexia. As a result, slowed menstruation, brittle bones, low blood pressure, infertility, fatigue, organ failure and even death can occur.
Bulimia nervosa is another common eating disorder. It is associated with binge eating, followed by forced vomiting or the use of laxatives or other diuretics to purge the body. In some cases, people with bulimia alternate periods of fasting. Many people with bulimia appear to be of normal weight. The condition is associated with acid reflux, dehydration, tooth decay and more.
Binge eating disorder shares some characteristics of bulimia, except that the person does not purge after the fact. People who binge eat are usually overweight. Associated health risks include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and more.
Eating disorders are complex in nature. When it comes to treatment, counseling is an important factor in recovery. There are mental health providers who specialize in treating eating disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be particularly effective. In addition, meeting with a nutritionist can help in creating healthy meal plans and eating patterns.
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