Eating disorders are behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions. They can be very serious conditions affecting physical, psychological and social function. Types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorder, pica and rumination disorder.
Taken together, eating disorders affect up to 5% of the population, most often develop in adolescence and young adulthood. Several, especially anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are more common in women, but they can all occur at any age and affect any gender. Eating disorders are often associated with preoccupations with food, weight or shape or with anxiety about eating or the consequences of eating certain foods. Behaviors associated with eating disorders including restrictive eating or avoidance of certain foods, binge eating, purging by vomiting or laxative misuse or compulsive exercise. These behaviors can become driven in ways that appear similar to an addiction.
Over time, some of the following symptoms may develop related to starvation or purging behaviors:
- Menstrual periods cease
- Dizziness or fainting from dehydration
- Brittle hair/nails
- Cold intolerance
- muscle weakness and wasting
- Heartburn and reflux (in those who vomit)
- Severe constipation, bloating and fullness after meals
- Stress fractures from compulsive exercise as well as bone loss resulting in osteopenia or osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
- Depression, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration and fatigue