Types of eating disorder

Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa are the two most popular types of eating disorder, but there are others, which while not common still exist and are rapidly spreading.

Types of eating disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

The name comes from two Latin words that mean nervous inability to eat. In females who have begun to menstruate, anorexia nervosa is usually marked by amenorrhea, or skipping at least three menstrual periods in a row. There are two types of Anorexia Nervosa, restricting type, characterized by strict dieting and exercise without binge eating; and a binge-eating/purging type, marked by episodes of compulsive eating with or without self-induced vomiting and the use of laxatives or enemas.

Bulimia Nervosa

Repeated secretive bouts of excessive eating followed by self-induced vomiting, purging, and anorexia, usually accompanied by feelings of guilt, depression, and self-disgust. A bulimic episode (a binge) is defined as a fit of frenzied overeating in which an excessive amount of food is consumed in a short time; this episode involves a sense of loss of control. They sometimes involve rapid and out-of-control feeding that stops when the bulimic is interrupted by another person or when his/her stomach hurts from over-extension. This cycle may be repeated several times a week or, in serious cases, several times a day.

Bulimia is related to deep psychological issues and feelings of lack of control. Sufferers often use the destructive eating pattern to feel in control over their lives. Bulimics are usually raised in dysfunctional families. Many also display alexithymia, the inability to consciously experience and express emotions.

Starvation Diet

Dieting tends to refer to the process of manipulating food intake and energy output in order to reduce body weight for health or aesthetic reasons. To reduce weight, fewer calories than the body needs are ingested, forcing the body to obtain its energy from fat stores. Extreme calorie restriction, medication or unusual patterns of eating such as restricting food consumption to a single fruit or meal can be dangerous and can have the following side effects:

  • Prolonged hunger
  • Depression
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Fainting
  • Sinus problems (especially post-nasal drip)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Rashes
  • Acidosis
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Seizures
  • Malnutrition, possibly leading to death

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by a loss of control over eating behaviors. The binge eater consumes unnaturally large amounts of food in a short time period, but unlike a bulimic, does not regularly engage in any inappropriate weight-reducing behaviors (for example, excessive exercise, vomiting, taking laxatives) following the binge episodes. Because of the nature of the disorder, most BED patients are overweight or obese.

Binge eating episodes may act as a psychological release for excessive emotional stress. Other circumstances that may predispose an individual to BED include heredity and mood disorders, such as major depression.

Many BED individuals binge after long periods of excessive dieting; therapy helps normalize this pattern. The initial goal of BED treatment is to teach the patient to gain control over his or her eating behavior by focusing on eating regular meals and avoiding snacking. Initial treatment may focus on curbing the depression that is a characteristic feature of BED.

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