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In journalism, the concept of the five Ws and one H represents a rudimentary approach to gathering information.  When investigating a story, reporters rely on this simple formula to assure that they will be able to present a complete picture of the subject being researched.  By checking off the answers to the interrogatories: who, what, where, when, why and how — the full story emerges.  We thought this methodology would help delineate eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating disorder for our readers.  Below we present a very basic outline that may serve as a handy checklist for those curious, confused or concerned about eating disorders.

WHAT is an eating disorder? 

An eating disorder is defined as a mental health condition in which an individual exhibits abnormal eating behavior is represented as either over-consumption or severe limitation of food to the point that the individual’s mental and physical health are jeopardized.  It is important to note that eating disorders are not strictly about food.  Instead they are a complex behavior issue which often comprises many underlying emotional, psychological, genetic and environmental causes.

 WHO gets eating disorders?

In years past, many people thought that eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, were limited to teenage girls.  However, experts report that almost anybody can develop an eating disorder.  Eating disorders affect males and females from as early as pre-adolescence to adulthood.  Eating disorders have been identified in individuals of both genders, no matter what their social position or ethnic background.

 WHERE do people get eating disorders?

The problem is worldwide.  Research suggests that although cultural factors often play a part in the development of eating disorders, a number of emotional issues and individual vulnerability combined with other factors are the underlying cause.

 WHEN do people develop eating disorders? 

Eating disorders can arise at any point in one’s life.  Although a large percentage of individuals develop their eating disorders during adolescence, recent data suggests that eating disorders are on the rise among the very young, and that more and more adults are developing mid-life eating disorders.

WHY do people develop eating disorders? 

The answer to this question is as varied as the number of individuals struggling with eating disorders.  There is no one cause or explanation because the factors that ultimately give rise to an eating disorder are unique to the individual.

Experts have identified a number of issues that increase the risk of developing an eating disorder such as: trauma, sexual or physical abuse, genetic predisposition, dysfunction family unit, etc. But these are only guidelines for diagnosis.  Ultimately, a professional assessment is required to discover the root cause of an individual’s eating disorder.

HOW are eating disorders treated?

The best course of care for eating disorders begins with an expert diagnosis.  The specific variety of eating disorder must be identified along with an assessment of the individual’s specific emotional issues.  Following this, a treatment program that addresses the individual’s unique condition in a therapeutic environment for a period of no less then 30 days is recommended. These are generally the first steps toward fulfilling the promise of full and lasting recovery.

We hope you will find the above checklist a useful tool that provides a general idea of this major mental health problem that affects millions of individuals worldwide.

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