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What is an Eating Disorder?


What is an eating disorder? An eating disorder can be a group of serious conditions in which a person is obsessed with food and weight. They’re thoughts are often occupied by little else. Some types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. At their most severe, eating disorders can be life-threatening.


While the exact causes of eating disorders are unknown, experts often attribute them to biology, psychological and emotional health or society. In the context of biology, there are a number of genes that make certain people more vulnerable to eating disorders than others. There is some evidence that serotonin may also influence behaviors associated with eating.

In terms of psychological and emotional health, those with low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior and unhealthy relationships are often more likely to have eating disorders. Regarding society, the Western cultural push for thinness is often cited as a cause of eating disorders. Peer pressure and media influence are also sometimes attributed to the cause of anorexia, bulimia, etc.

Who Has Eating Disorders?

Though anyone can have an eating disorder, there is often a certain demographic most afflicted by such disorders. A person with an eating disorder is most likely:

* Female
* A teenager or young adult
* On a diet
* In a transition (moving to college, breaking up)
* An athlete, actor, dancer or model


There are a number of complications that could arise from an eating disorder. These complications can include organ failure, depression, suicidal thoughts, abnormal menstruation, bone loss, kidney damage, severe tooth decay and high or low blood pressure. In the most severe cases, an eating disorder can even lead to death.


Treatment for eating disorders often depends on the specific type, though generally they are treated with a combination of psychotherapy, weight restoration and nutrition education, hospitalization and medication. It’s important to note that while medication can’t cure an eating disorder, it can help control urges to binge, purge and obsess.

Source: Mayo Clinic