Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are characterized as a change in eating behaviors. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are the two types of eating disorders. Misconception of body shape and weight are essential features of both types.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is the refusal to maintain minimal normal body weight. It is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a persistent misperception of the actual shape and/or size of one’s body. If Anorexia Nervosa develops in childhood or early adolescence, patients typically fail to attain age-appropriate body weight levels.

To avoid gaining weight, patients engage in a severe reduction of normal food intake, beginning by excluding what they perceive to be highly caloric foods and eventually ending up eating little food of any kind. Patients typically engage in excessive weighing of themselves, obsessive measuring of body parts, and constantly checking themselves in the mirror. An individual may acknowledge being thin, but won’t see it as a problem, even as those around them clearly observe a problem that requires professional attention. In menopausal women, amenorrhea (due to abnormally low levels of estrogen) is an indicator of physiological dysfunction in Anorexia Nervosa.

Bulimia Nervosa

The essential features of Bulimia Nervosa are binge eating, followed by inappropriate compensatory methods to prevent weight gain. A binge is defined as eating, in a discrete period of time, an amount of food much larger than what should be consumed under normal circumstances. Binges may or may not be planned and are characterized by rapid consumption. Binges are commonly triggered by depressed mood, stress, intense hunger because of not eating, or feelings related to body weight and shape. To prevent the weight gain following binge eating, individuals often resort to vomiting, misuse of laxatives, and/or excessive exercise. In some cases, vomiting becomes a goal itself, and a person will binge in order to vomit, or will vomit after consuming only a small amount of food.