Eating disorders are characterized by the following:

  • Problematic eating patterns
  • Extreme concerns about body weight
  • Inappropriate behaviors aimed at controlling body weight.

The two main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

The large majority of eating disorders occur in females and are much more common in industrialized countries where people idealize thinness and have easy access to food. Eating disorders are also much more common in younger women.

Anorexia Nervosa

The main features of anorexia nervosa are a refusal to maintain a body weight in the normal range, intense fear about gaining weight, and highly distorted body image. In postpubescent women, another symptom of anorexia nervosa is absence of menstrual periods. Anorexia nervosa can result in serious medical problems, including anemia, kidney and cardiovascular malfunctions, dental problems, and osteoporosis.

Bulimia Nervosa

The main features of bulimia nervosa are habitual binge eating and unhealthy efforts to control body weight, including vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, or use of laxatives, diuretics, and other medications. People with bulimia nervosa tend to evaluate themselves largely according to their body weight and shape. Unlike people with anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa typically have body weight in the normal range.

Bulimia nervosa can have serious medical consequences, including fluid and electrolyte imbalances and dental and gastrointestinal problems.

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