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Eating Disorders: Signs and Symptoms


Eating disorders are common illnesses that can cause serious medical complications, including death. About 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).

In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which is taking place Feb. 24 to March 2 of this year, the following article describes the signs and symptoms of the three most common eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia

Anorexia, also referred to as anorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder that causes people see themselves as overweight when they are extremely underweight. People who suffer from anorexia look very skinny and emaciated.

Despite this extreme thinness, anorexics continue to pursue losing weight and are unwilling to maintain a healthy weight. Some people with anorexia may engage in extreme dieting, binge eating followed by purging and excessive exercise to maintain their extremely low weight. Others may abuse or misuse laxatives, enemas or diuretic medications.

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

Bulimia, also referred to as bulimia nervosa, is characterized by frequent, recurring episodes of eating large amounts of food (also called binge eating) followed by purging - vomiting, taking laxatives, exercising or fasting to get “rid” of the food.

Unlike people who suffer from anorexia nervosa, those with bulimia may not be underweight but may actually be normal weight or overweight.

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating

Also called emotional eating, compulsive overeating or food addiction, binge eating is more than eating too much every once in a while. Those who suffer from binge eating eat very quickly until they are uncomfortably full and eat large quantities of food despite not being hungry. They also eat alone because they are embarrassed by the amount of food they eat in one sitting and always feel disgusted and guilty after a so-called “binge” episode.

Help Is Available

If you suspect that a loved one may be suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, it’s important for them to get properly diagnosed so that treatment can be sought.

Source: National Eating Disorder Association