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Eating disorder is a group of conditions characterized by abnormal and often dangerous eating habits. There are many different types of eating disorders and generally speaking they involve either insufficient or excessive food intake. The most common eating disorders are bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder. These are not simply nutritional problems, but rather serious physical and mental disorders. Eating disorders usually affect females, but they are also diagnosed in males. According to the official statistics, about 5–10 million women are being affected in the United States. The number of affected males is a bit lower and it is estimated at 1 million individuals.

Facts and figures

Recent studies reveal that 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old. This is very concerning if we known that for females with anorexia nervosa, aged between fifteen and twenty-four, the mortality rate associated with this illness is about 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death. Despite the serious consequences this condition can have, only one-third of people with anorexia in the community receive mental health care, the same goes for 6% of people with bulimia. Unfortunately, majority of people affected with eating disorders do not get any kind of adequate care.

Eating disorder diagnosis

Diagnosis for eating disorder is made by medical professionals. Simple change in eating pattern isn't sufficient to diagnose eating disorder, since many medical disorders mimic the symptoms of eating disorders. Medical diagnosis is used to detect any kind of lesion, tumor or other organic condition that can be a determining factor for the development of eating disorder. However, psychological factors are far more important. There are many specific psychometric tests developed for the initial diagnosis of an eating disorder. Psychological tests are usually performed after medical professionals have ruled out any kind of organic cause. Most commonly used psychometric tests are Eating Attitudes Test, Body Attitudes Test, Eating Disorder Inventory, ECOFF questionnaire, Body Attitudes Questionnaire and Eating Disorder Examination Interview. These tests are formulated to reveal the frequency in which the patient engages in behaviors indicative of an eating disorder.

Sometimes, eating disorder is diagnosed based on a differential diagnosis. This method is used to identify unknown conditions by a process of elimination. According to this method, medical experts will try to rule out any other medical conditions which can be misdiagnosed as an eating disorder. One of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions is Lyme disease, often mentioned as the "great imitator".

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