Common Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is characterized by excessive weight loss through restrictive eating. For many people, this means restricting food intake until he/she eats very little, if at all.  Anorexia may be life threatening.

Signs and Symptoms

  • loss of a significant amount of weight
  • continuing to diet although thin
  • feeling fat, even after losing weight
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • preoccupation with food, calories, fat contents and nutrition
  • lying about food
  • preferring to diet in isolation
  • cooking for others
  • exercising compulsively
  • depression, anxiety

Physical Consequences

  • shrunken organs
  • bone mineral loss, which can lead to osteoporosis
  • low body temperature
  • low blood pressure
  • slowed metabolism and reflexes
  • Irregular heartbeat, which can lead to cardiac arrest
  • hair loss
  • cold hands and feet
  • fainting spells
  • weakness, exhaustion
  • periods of hyperactivity
  • constipation
  • growth of fine body hair on arms, legs, and other body parts
  • heart tremors
  • dry, brittle skin
  • shortness of breath
  • fertility concerns
  • loss of monthly menstrual periods

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is characterized by a binging and purging cycle. People who are bulimic consume large amounts of calories (5,000-6,000) in a short period of time (1-2 hours). The binge is followed by purging in which the person vomits or uses laxatives to rid his/her body of the food he/she just consumed.

Signs and Symptoms

  • binging, or eating uncontrollably
  • purging by strict dieting, fasting, vigorous exercise, vomiting or abusing laxatives or diuretics in an attempt to lose weight
  • using the bathroom frequently after meals
  • preoccupation with body weight
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • feeling out of control

Physical Consequences

  • dehydration
  • damage to bowels, liver and kidney
  • electrolyte imbalance, which leads to irregular heartbeat, and in some cases, cardiac arrest
  • swollen glands in neck and face
  • heartburn
  • bloating
  • irregular periods
  • dental problems
  • constipation
  • indigestion
  • sore throat
  • vomiting blood
  • weakness, exhaustion
  • bloodshot eyes

Binge Eating

Binge eating is similar to bulimia in that large amounts of calories are consumed. However, there is no purge cycle in this disorder. A person who is a binge eater often eats when not physically hungry, at night or in secret, is obsessed with food, and often feels exceedingly guilty and shameful.

Signs and Symptoms

  • episodes of binge eating
  • frequent dieting
  • unable to stop eating voluntarily
  • awareness that eating patterns are abnormal
  • weight fluctuations
  • depressed mood
  • feeling ashamed
  • antisocial behavior
  • obesity

Physical Consequences

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • gall bladder disease
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • certain types of cancer