Eating Disorders

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Overview

Eating disorders are a group of health conditions characterized by persistent eating behaviors, that are harmful to the patient, either physically or mentally. The following are the most common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder

Causes

The main cause of eating disorders is not known, but some of the following can be attributed to the development of eating disorders:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Biochemical changes in the brain
  • Psychological and emotional issues such as, low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, and relationship problems
  • Stress

Symptoms

The symptoms of eating disorders, vary with the type of eating disorder:

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Anorexia is characterized by adopting extremely unhealthy eating habits, in order to lose weight.
  • Patients with anorexia have unusually low body weight, and a constant fear of gaining weight despite barely eating anything.
  • They also have a distorted body image.
  • Use methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, laxatives, diet aids, or vomiting after eating.

Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Episodes of binging, and then purging, and feeling a lack of control over own eating habits.
  • Guilt and shame associated with episodes of binging.
  • Using methods like vomiting, excessive exercise, and laxatives to get rid of the excess calories.
  • Preoccupied with weight and body shape.
  • May be either normal weight, or slightly overweight.

Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating large amounts of food, and feeling a lack of self-control over eating habits.
  • May eat quickly, and in large amounts, even after being uncomfortably full.
  • Feels disgusted and ashamed about eating, but no effort to get rid of the calories.
  • May be overweight or obese.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of eating disorder is made on the basis of history, physical examination, and psychological evaluation.

Treatment

For the treatment of eating disorders, the following steps can be taken:

  • Developing a healthy eating plan for the patient
  • Psychotherapy
  • Antidepressants (to control urges)
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