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Eating Disorders

An Overview

Some people become so concerned about weight control that they take drastic and dangerous measures to remain thin. Some compulsively overeat (bingeing) and then force themselves to vomit (purging) to avoid gaining weight. This pattern is associated with an eating disorder called bulimia nervosa. Purging may also be accomplished by other methods, such as fasting, excessive exercise, or abuse of laxatives.

Women with a disorder called anorexia nervosa actually starve themselves to keep their weight down. People with anorexia nervosa have an extremely disturbed body image. They see themselves as overweight when they are actually underweight. This disorder is very serious and can result in heart failure and death.

Bulimia and anorexia nervosa primarily affect women, usually beginning in adolescence or early adulthood, although one in ten are men. These disorders are rare before the age of ten. It was once believed that eating disorders were more common in North America and Western Europe than in other parts of the world, and were more common among the prosperous and well educated. However, research in has found these disorders to be common among all social and economic levels, and in many countries throughout the world.

Although the incidence of eating disorders is small, many people, especially females, remain unhappy with their body shape or weight. Many girls whose weight is normal by medical standards still believe they are overweight. A majority of adolescent girls report that they would like to be thinner. Most believe that being thinner would make them happier, more successful, and more popular. Conversely, many men see themselves as too small, leading to a similar but reverse condition called muscle-dysmorphia.



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Disclaimer: This information should not be considered medical advice and should not substitute the judgment of a competent psychiatrist.


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