Eating disorders are complex conditions involving psychological factors and nutritional deficiencies. The
term eating disorders includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge-eating.
The psychological factors may include an inability to cope with stress, problems with family and other
relationships, feelings of deprivation, and experiences of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
Psychotherapy is an essential part of the treatment for eating disorders, along with nutrition counseling and
medical care as needed.1
A person with anorexia does not eat enough to maintain a healthy weight; she views herself as overweight
and is anxious about gaining weight. Anorexia typically begins in early adolescence, mainly among girls,
though the numbers of boys developing this condition is increasing. People with anorexia weigh less than 85%
of the normal weight for their age and height. Excessive exercise, vomiting, and abuse of laxatives and/or diuretics may also occur. Severe anorexia can be life threatening.
Bulimia, also known as bingeing and purging, is more common than anorexia, and usually affects teenage
girls and women in their twenties. It involves a recurring, emotionally driven cycle of compulsive
consumption of large quantities of high-calorie food in a short period of time, followed by induced vomiting.
Some individuals also use laxatives, drugs that induce vomiting, diuretics, or excessive exercise in an
attempt to purge. About 50% of anorexics also purge, and both bulimia and anorexia can coexist in the same
person.2 Unlike those with anorexia,
some people affected by bulimia maintain normal or even excessive body weight.
Binge-eating disorder is similar to bulimia but no purging is done. It is more common than either bulimia
or anorexia nervosa, and people with binge-eating disorder are usually overweight.3