Eating disorders

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Eating disorders are a group of serious diseases. The patient is concerned about diet and weight loss.

The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating or binge eating disorder.

Eating disorders can cause serious physical problems, even severe and may endanger a person’s life.


1. Overview
2. Anorexia nervosa
3. Bulimia nervosa
4. Binge-eating disorder or compulsive eating
5. Anorexia athletica
6. Excessive exercise
7. Overeating
8. Eating during the night
9. Ortorexia nervosa – addiction on healthy eating
10. How do you identify an eating disorder
11. Risk Factors
12. Complications
13. Treating eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa

This condition is characterized by:

- desire to lose a lot
- obsession with weight loss and refusal to maintain a normal weight or healthy
- intense fear of gaining weight
- distorted body image, self-esteem and body perception strongly influenced by the form or severity of a refusal to accept significant reductions in weight
- absence of menstruation
- limited food consumption.

Many people with anorexia nervosa perceive themselves as having an excessive weight, even when they are obviously underweight. Eating and weight control becomes obsessive. People with anorexia nervosa weigh repeatedly divide food carefully in small portions and eat only small amounts of certain foods.

Some of these people may eat compulsively and then follow drastic diets, intensive exercise, forced vomiting or can abuse of laxative, diuretics or enemas.

The characteristic manifestations of anorexia can include:

- thinning bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
- hair and brittle nails
- yellow skin and dry
- growth of fine hair all over the body
- mild anemia, muscle wasting and weakness
- severe constipation
- low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
- deterioration of cardiac structure and function
- brain damage
- organ dysfunction
- lower internal body temperature
- lethargy, permanent feeling of fatigue
- infertility.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes and frequent consumption of relatively large amounts of food, along with lack of control over these episodes.

Appetite for eating is followed by a behavior that is intended to compensate overeating: forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia usually maintain their healthy weight and normal, while some are slightly overweight.

Like people with anorexia nervosa, is this fear of weight gain and desperate desire to lose weight. There is a permanent dissatisfaction related to body size and its shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is conducted in secret, as it is accompanied by feelings of disgust and shame. Desire to eat followed by the cleaning cycle, occur in some cases several times a week, while in others several times a day.

Other symptoms include:

- inflammation and chronic neck pain
- inflammation of salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
- enamel damage as a result of their exposure to stomach acid
- disturbance of acid reflux and other gastrointestinal problems
- intestinal damage and irritation from laxative abuse
- severe dehydration can lead to heart attack

Binge-eating disorder or compulsive eating

Binge-eating disorder involves control-loss when a person eats. Unlike bulimia nervosa, compulsive eating periods are followed by cleaning or removing food from the body, excessive exercise or fasting. As a result, people suffering from compulsive eating are often overweight or obese.

They have a relatively increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and hypertension and often experience feelings of guilt, shame and stress related to their behavior, which might lead to the desire to eat more.

Anorexia athletica

Anorexia athletica is a combination of disordered behaviors that are part of a spectrum of eating disorders, being different of anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

Although isn’t yet officially recognized in standard textbooks of mental health diagnosis, “anorexia athletica” term is commonly used in literature to describe a disorder characterized by excessive exercise, obsessive. It also is known as compulsive exercise or anorexia athletica.

The condition is common among elite athletes and, although it can also run in the general population. People with this kind of anorexia can engage in excessive and will restrict their calorie intake. Thus, the risk of malnutrition can occur and young athletes may suffer from endocrine and metabolic disorders such as low bone density or delayed menarche.

Symptoms of anorexia include athletic exercise excessive, calorie consumption obsession, desire to lose weight permanently, and perhaps lack of pleasure occur during exercise. Severe cases of anorexia can alter athletic physical, psychological and social.

Excessive exercise

Excessive exercise term refers to exercise that makes a person until you reach exhaustion. Excessive exercise behavior can be constant or may refer to a single session of intense exercise.

When physical activity that develops a person becomes a regular habit, may be an indication that the person suffers from excessive exercise, compulsive exercise or anorexia athletica. When exercise takes place until it becomes a problem, the person may experience social consequences, physical and mental.


Overeating is not a specific diagnosis, is related to the situation where a person eats too much, such as during holidays, on birthdays or may consider a man’s habit of excessive eating normally.

People who routinely overeats tend to eat when not hungry and can eat alone because they feel embarrassed that others see you eat your portion sizes.

In addition, these people spend exorbitant amounts on culinary fantasies about future meals. So, another sign that overeating is a problem, is the amount of money wasted on food. Generally, people who eat too much are overweight or obese, even including those who have a normal body weight can overeat.

Overeating becomes problematic when it manifests as a compulsive or obsessive relationship with food. This point can be treated with therapy or behavior modification therapy for food addiction.

Eating during the night

Eating food at night is a condition that gain recognition among medical professionals. Its clinical importance derived from this custom link with obesity or overweight, which have adverse health risks. Although not classified as an eating disorder, but rather as a syndrome, eating at night requires a combination of symptoms, characterized mainly by food intake during the night.

Patients tend to not eat in the morning, eat very little food in the first half of the day. Most calories consumed then during the evening hours so that their sleep may be disturbed. People with this disorder are unable to sleep after eating and may experience frequent awakenings during the night to feed.

However, patients are awake and aware of eating episodes. The situation is different from other disorders of this type, because in this situation snacks are consumed rather than huge portions of food. In addition, it differs from bulimia, because there is compensatory or purging behaviors to compensate for increased caloric intake.

Orthorexia nervosa – addiction on healthy eating

Orthorexia nervosa is not recognized as a traditional type of eating disorder, but has some features in common, both of anorexia nervosa, bulimia and of especially food obsession.

Orthorexia refers to fixation on eating clean, healthy and appropriate, rather than the amount of food eaten. Suffering from orthorexia nervosa is similar to workaholism or exercise, a situation where a person overdose on something considered healthy or good behavior until it becomes obsessive.

As with other people diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorders, and orthorexia nervosa cyclical condition is associated with the change in mood and isolation. People with orthorexia nervosa spend the most time planning and preparing meals and trying to resist the urge to rule out other activities.

Patients may come to have extreme behaviors, some of them avoiding some people that do not share their eating beliefs or their own food reserves available wherever they go. Orthorexia nervosa can have negative consequences including: social isolation, physical impairment or difficulty enjoying life. In some cases, the hearts of those who suffer from this kind of disorder may yield because of the weight off or restrictive eating.

How do you identify an eating disorder?

Sometimes can be quite difficult to accept that a loved one or friend may suffer an eating disorder. The warning signs include:

- refusal to eat
- think a person is fat, even though it has a normal weight or underweight
- weighing and looking in the mirror too
- desire to go out to eat somewhere else or specify that they have already eaten
- rich and complex cooking meals for others, but instead, for its use restricted or even refusing to eat
- eating foods low in calories, like lettuce or celery
- feeling of discomfort or refusal to eat in public places such as restaurants
- use of pro-anorexia sites.

Risk Factors

Certain events and situations may increase your risk of developing eating disorders. Among these risk factors may include:

- female – girls and young women have more probabilities than men to suffer from eating disorders
- age – although eating disorders can occur at different ages, from pre-teens to older adults, they are most common in teenagers and people aged around 20 years
- family history
- emotional disorders
- diets for weight loss
- transition period
- various fields such as sports, entertainment and the arts.


Eating disorders can lead to a variety of complications, some of them threatening a person’s life. As their duration is longer, the more severe and more serious complications can occur. Complications may include:

- death
- heart problems
- organ failure
- depression
- suicidal thoughts or behavior
- amenorrhea
- bone loss
- retarded growth
- digestive problems
- renal impairment
- severe dental caries
- high or low blood pressure.

Treating eating disorders

If not treated, eating disorders can have a negative impact on the workplace or social life of a person. Physical effects of an eating disorder can be fatal sometimes. Recovery may involve a long period of time.

It is important to obtain support from family and friends. Treatment includes monitoring the physical health, while therapy is down to relieve psychological problems. This treatment may involve:

- cognitive behavioral therapy – which focuses on changing how a person perceives a situation which will change how it works
- interpersonal psychotherapy – a therapy that will focus on interpersonal problems
- dietary counseling
- psychodynamic therapy – is counseling that focuses on how a person’s personality and her life experiences influence her thoughts, feelings, current relationships and behavior
- medication – may be recommended certain types of antidepressants such as selective serotonin regainers inhibitors, which can be used to treat anorexia nervosa.



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