Eating disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD) is "an unhealthy relationship with food and weight that interferes with many areas of a person's life" (ANAD). The topic of eating disorders has gained significance over the past owing to the ongoing healthy eating campaign. This text presents the causes, symptoms, and prevalence statistics of four common eating disorders among the American populace.
Anorexia Nervosa is a complex eating disorder characterized by an obsession about the food one eats, and the weight they maintain. ANAD identifies anorexia as a leading cause of death, and the third-largest cause of long-term illness among women aged between 15 and 24. Women make up over 80% of those with the condition, which is more prevalent among teenagers and young adults between ages 15 and 24.
Anorexic persons have an intense fear of gaining weight, often preferring to maintain a distorted body shape and a weight way below that which is recommended for their height and age. This they do by exercising excessively and starving themselves (the restricting form of anorexia); or using diuretics, diet pills, and through vomiting (the purging type) (Helpguide). Although anorexic persons pay too much attention to their weight, and the food they eat, there often are underlying causes such as feeling out of control, pressure to be perfect, insecurity, loneliness, and depression driving the urge to be thin.
Anorexia is often confused with dieting, although the two are significantly different: first, anorexia is about controlling one's emotions and life, whereas dieting is about controlling, and hence, maintaining a healthy body weight (Helpguide). Moreover, unlike anorexia which focuses more on self-esteem, dieting is based purely on body image and body weight. Thirdly, anorexia leads one to strive for weight loss as a way of achieving happiness, whereas dieting strives for weight loss in a bid to improve appearance (Helpguide).
The most common symptoms of anorexia include strange food rituals such as using a specific plate or not eating in public places; pre-occupation with nutrition and fat grams, and such tendencies as portion-measuring and keeping of food diaries; and obsession over even the smallest weight gains (Helpguide). The effects of the condition are the same ones associated with malnutrition, including lack of menstruation, dehydration, dry skin, low blood pressure, insomnia, and fatigue.
The causes of anorexia can be grouped into: i) biological -- one inherits genetic tendencies towards perseverance, sensitivity, and perfectionism; and ii) environmental -- the media seemingly equating worth and success with thinness, and in so doing, driving the desire to be thin. Nonetheless, anorexia is treatable; through the support and guidance of nutritional experts, an anorexic can learn to develop healthy attitudes about their weight.
Bulimia is a deadly eating disorder "characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food," followed by frantic efforts to prevent weight gain by exercising excessively, fasting, pill-use, or inducing vomiting (ANAD). Towards this end, bulimic victims exhibit some form of vicious binge-and-purge cycle. According to ANAD, bulimia is more prevalent among women, with 1.1 to 4.2% of them exhibiting the condition at some point in their lives. Moreover, the condition accounts for approximately 3.9% of deaths among women (ANAD).
Like is the case with anorexia, bulimia leads its victims to obsess over weight gain and strive for weight loss; however, unlike anorexic victims, bulimic patients can still fall within the weight range regarded normal for their age and height (ANAD). Persons with bulimia exhibit the following key symptoms -- broken eye blood vessels, swollen salivary glands and cheeks, ruptured esophagus, acid reflux, dizziness and body weakness, acute sore throat, swelling of feet and hands, bloating, compulsive exercise, and secret binge eating habits. Concern about body image, and low self-esteem are significant causes of bulimia (Helpguide). Other key contributors include a cultural overemphasis on thinness and influences from professions such as wrestling, modeling, and ballet dancing, which are inclined towards image appearance.
Like anorexia, bulimia is treatable through a tripartite mechanism that involves breaking the vicious binge-and-purge cycle, changing unhealthy feeding patterns and habits, and finding solutions to emotional issues.
Orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder often described as an obsession about healthy eating. It begins…