Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorder (Anorexia or Bulimia)

Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorder (Anorexia or Bulimia)

The two most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, more commonly known as anorexia and bulimia. The two disorders can be difficult to distinguish from each other because they have similar characteristics: With both anorexia and bulimia, the person will have a distorted image of his or her body. That person will seem to be obsessed with what he or she eats.


The exact cause of this disorder is not known. It may be related to problems with the chemicals in the brain that regulate mood and appetite.Many people with eating disorders also appear to suffer from depression.In the central nervous system, chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters control hormone production. The neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which function abnormally in people who have depression, have been discovered to also be decreased in both acutely-ill anorexia and bulimia patients, and long-term recovered anorexia patients.Because eating disorders seem to run in families, and female relatives are the most often affected, genetic factors are believed to play a role in the disorders.

People diagnosed with eating disorder may frequently switch between different eating disorders, or may with time fit all diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia.People with anorexia have an intense fear of being fat. When a person has anorexia, he or she hardly eats at all — and the small amount of food that is eaten becomes an obsession. A person with anorexia may weigh food before eating it or compulsively count the calories of everything. It is not unusual for a person with anorexia to also exercise excessively in an attempt to lose weight.

People who eat a normal amount of food, but become exceedingly obsessed with healthy eating, or strictly categorize normal foods or entire food groups as "safe" and "off-limits", may be referred to as having orthorexia. However, this diagnosis is not formally accepted by the psychiatric community.

Most people with eating disorders are females. Males also can develop eating disorders, but do so less frequently. The exception is binge-eating disorder, which appears to affect almost as many males as females.Both anorexia and bulimia tend to affect girls more than guys, but 10% of the people with eating disorders are guys. And, because we typically think of eating disorders as only affecting girls, they often go unrecognized in guys. Guys with eating disorders also tend to focus more on athletic appearance or success than on just looking thin.With more than half of American teenage girls and nearly a third of boys using unhealthy behaviors to control their weight, experts at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) offer tips to catch the warning signs of anorexia or bulimia:

Signs & symptoms of anorexia or bulimia:

NEDA experts note that the median onset of anorexia for girls is between the ages of 11 and 13, but the disease has been noted even in elementary school children.

And even though anorexia and bulimia carry the highest death rates of any psychiatric illness, a report issued Thursday by Harvard University researchers found that fewer than half of those with a history of an eating disorder said they had ever received treatment.You may stay preoccupied with eating for many years. You may need to continue taking medicine or having therapy for many months. Being under a lot of stress can cause a relapse. The earlier you seek treatment, the more successful it is likely to be.

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