Eating disorders are a group of conditions defined by abnormal eating habits. There are many different eating disorders but all of them usually include either insufficient or excessive food intake. Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are the most common specific types of eating disorders in the United States. This complex disease develops from a concern about the physical look and a low self-esteem. Eating disorders can cause dramatic changes in weight, damage vital functions and interfere with normal daily life. Women are more prone to developing eating disorders. It is estimated that some types of eating disorder affect somewhere between 5 to 10 million females in the United States.
Anorexia nervosa is a complex eating disorder characterized by the patient's constant refusal to maintain normal body weight. This pattern of behavior is always accompanied with an obsessive fear of gaining weight. The patient is usually occupied with the severely distorted self-image. These patients are usually always hungry, but they do not allow themselves to eat anything but the very small quantities of carefully selected food. It is estimated that these patients take somewhere between 600 to 800 calories per day. However, most of them are ready to experience a complete starvation. This disorder has a highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorders.
Possible signs of anorexia nervosa include very obvious and rapid weight loss, scaring of the knuckles due to sticking fingers down throat to force vomiting, obsession with calories and weight gain, preoccupation with cooking and recipes, fine hair grows on the face and body, swollen joints, sad and lethargic state, avoiding social interactions…
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by avoiding food intake for a period of time followed by an overeating period that results in feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Patients usually try to overcome the guilty feeling by vomiting, fasting, using laxatives, diuretics, or other similar methods. As any other eating disorder, it usually affects women. Teenagers are at the highest risk, and a median age of onset is the age of 18. Some obvious signs and symptoms can point out to bulimia nervosa. The most common symptom is the unusual eating pattern that involves rapid and out-of-control eating followed by self-induced vomiting or other forms of purging. Other symptoms are actually hazardous consequences of such behavior and include chronic gastric reflux after eating, dehydration and high levels of potassium, severe electrolyte imbalance, and inflammation of the esophagus, oral trauma, constipation, infertility, enlargement of the glands, peptic ulcers, dental erosion and swelling of the salivary glands.