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Eating disorders are, unfortunately, on the rise among American teenagers. It is estimated that one or two out of every hundred students suffers from some form of eating disorder.

Eating disorders are much more than regular exercise and dieting. They are often obsessive and uncontrollable and they have a significant negative impact on a person’s life, in terms of health, mental and emotional state as well as social life.

The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, often called simply anorexia and bulimia. Other eating disorders, such as binge eating, body image disorders and food phobias are also becoming more common.

Anorexia nervosa

Teenagers who have anorexia are extremely preoccupied about their weight and terrified of becoming fat. They are very slim and their body weight gradually decreases, until it reaches the point of malnutrition. Anorexia sufferers eat very small amounts of food or hardly eat at all, and they exercise a lot. Dieting, fasting, extreme exercise, constant discontent with body image are main characteristics of this eating disorder.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia. In this eating disorder, a person may eat a lot, even excessive amounts of food, but then try to compensate by purging, vomiting, using laxatives, exercising and fasting in order to prevent weight gain. The main characteristic of bulimia are cycles or binging and purging. Bulimia sufferers also tend to develop compulsive behaviors.

People who suffer from bulimia also have unusual and often unhealthy eating habits. They binge on large amounts of junk food, usually in secret, and they may even eat undercooked or unfrozen food or food from the garbage bin. After this, they purge, usually through omitting and laxatives.

Binge eating disorder

In binge eating disorder, a person eats excessive amounts of food, similarly to those who have bulimia, but they do not try to compensate for it by purging. People who have this disorder often eat unhealthy foods, like chips, burgers, pizza, bacon, cake and such. Over time, this leads to obesity and related medical problems, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

All eating disorders are potentially very dangerous, which is why they should be recognized and treated on time. Treatment may be long and difficult, bit it can lead to complete recovery. Friends and family play a very important role in dealing with eating disorders, because persons suffering from them are usually in denial and do not believe they have an actual problem.

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