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Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a compulsion to eat, or avoid eating, that negatively affects both one's physical and mental health. Eating disorders are all encompassing. They affect every part of the person's life. According to the authors of Surviving an Eating Disorder, "feelings about work, school, relationships, day-to-day activities and one's experience of emotional well being are determined by what has or has not been eaten or by a number on a scale."[1] Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the most common eating disorders generally recognized by medical classification schemes,[2] with a significant diagnostic overlap between the two.[3] Together, they affect an estimated 5-7% of females in the United States during their lifetimes.[4] There is a third type of eating disorder currently being investigated and defined - Binge Eating Disorder. This is a chronic condition that occurs when an individual consumes huge amounts of food during a brief period of time and feels totally out of control and unable to stop their eating. It can lead to serious health conditions such as morbid obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.[5]

Many people believe that eating disorders occur only among young white females, but this is not the case. While eating disorders do mainly affect women between the ages of 12 and 35, other groups are also at risk of developing eating disorders. Eating disorders affect all ethnic and racial groups and while the specific nature of the problem and the risk factors may vary, no population is exempt.[6] Younger and younger children seem to be at risk of developing eating disorders. While most children who develop eating disorders are between 11 and 13, studies have shown that 80% of 3rd through 6th graders are dissatisfied with their bodies or their weight and by age 9 somewhere between 30 and 40% of girls have already been on a diet. Between ages 10 and 16, the statistic jumps to 80%. Many eating disorder experts attribute this behavior to the effects of cultural expectations. Stress is also considered to be a factor in the development of eating disorders. According to Abigail Natenshon, a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders, children as young as 5 show signs of stress related eating disorders. This includes compulsively exercising and running to burn off calories. Natanshon notes that as children reach puberty younger and younger, they are less equipped to understand the changes in their bodies. They understand the message of the media to be "thin" and try to fit in without comprehending the effects on their bodies.[7] While eating disorders affect younger and younger children, not only girls but also boys suffer from eating disorders. Boys who participate in sports where weight is an issue and often boys who experience issues regarding sexual identity are at risk of developing eating disorders.[8]

Anorexia nervosa is deliberate and sustained weight loss driven by a fear of becoming overweight and a distorted body image. It is not to be confused with anorexia, which is its symptomatic general loss of appetite or disinterest in food. DSM-IV characterizes anorexia nervosa as:


The article above is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Eating disorders".