Eating Disorders - Terms, Definitions and Symptoms

Eating Disorders
Terms, Definitions and Symptoms

An eating disorder is best defined as severe disturbances in eating patterns. The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Individuals who have an eating disorder have a tendency to eat a lot than purge or may eat too little. A popular element around all eating disorders however, is the victims have low self-esteem.

A popular question asked would be what causes an eating disorder?

A common explanation found would be - Chemicals in the brain are called neurotransmitters control how the body makes and releases hormones. People with eating disorders have very low levels of two neurotransmitters called serotonin and norepinephrine. These two search the brain pituitary glands to make and release hormones that control the bodies neuroendocrine system. This system controls emotions, physical development, memory and heart beat. When the hormone production stops, the functions start acting slower.

Children are likely to develop eating disorders however, the main time for developing eating disorders is during puberty when body image is a big deal. Unfortunately 80% of children have been on a diet before they have reached grade four, 51% of those children say they feel better about themselves if they are on a diet. Body image is always on the back of people’s minds. This might be hard to accomplish however. The average sized woman is 5’4” and 140 pound, now the average size model is 5’11” and 117 pounds. That’s a very big difference that we are trying to compare ourselves to. Also keep in the back of you’re mind that models are skinnier than 98% of the rest of the population. However, constant pictures and reminders of how we are supposed to look like, lead people into developing these eating disorders.

Unfortunately with an eating disorder the results can be deadly. Eating disorders can cause the bones to become very brittle and break from lack or calcium. This process can occur as quickly as six months after the eating disorder starts taking place. Other negative consequences of an eating disorder are drop in blood pressure; dry, yellow skin; and even shrinkage of the brain. Uneven heartbeat can often occur, this could lead to further heart failure.

If a person has an eating disorder they may try these unsafe methods of loosing weight:
Self-induced vomiting
Diet pills
Serious over exercising

When someone you know or love is diagnosed with an eating disorder be prepared to see denial, resistance, and even anger. If you suspect that an eating disorder is present, contact a doctor and/or councilor for professional help.

However, if you suspect that an eating disorder is present check for these specific signs:
Using the bathroom frequently after meals
Preoccupation with body weight
Depression or mood swings
Swollen glands in face and neck
Bloodshot eyes

Approximately 70 million people are effected by eating disorders. A little over 1 million of those are males. So 1% of the total male population have eating disorders and 15% of the young woman’s population have eating disorders. A recent study showed that half of the population would rather be hit by a truck than be fat. This study also showed that two thirds of the population would rather be mentally of physically ill than be fat.
If an eating disorder is present allow for family members to be very loving and caring towards them. Make sure you become aware of the disease before you talk about it so they don't feel out of place.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder has been recognized in recent years. It is estimated that this disorder probably affects millions of people. Most of us over eat from time to time and recognize it however, a person with this disorder often eat large proportions of food and often feel a sense of loss over their eating. Since this disorder is so new are still trying to determine the best way to see if some one has binge eating disorder.

Some signs that have been consistent in diagnosed patients are:
Eating until uncomfortably full
Eating large amounts of food even when not physically hungry
Eating alone out of embarrassment of the quality of the food being eaten
Feelings of disgust, depression or guilt after over eating

People with serious binge eating disorder may:
Frequent episodes of eating what others would consider an abnormally large amount
Frequent feelings of being unable to control how much is being eaten

Binge eating disorder can often be linked to Bulimia. However, a person with Bulimia would purge after a short period of binge eating. Sometimes, people with binge eating disorder will feel like this is the best alternative when they over eat. As a result bulimia is developed. Even though it has been recently discovered, Binge eating disorder is the most common. It is estimated that 2% of all North Americans have this disorder. This disease is common in blacks, whites, and can occur in many ethnic groups as well. This disease is slightly more popular in woman than in man, effecting every three woman for every two men. Dieting isn't effective for them, they will loose weight and than gain it, this is known as yo-yo dieting.

Up to half of the people with binge eating disorder have a history of depression. Many people reported that anger, sadness, boredom, anxiety or other negative emotions can trigger binge eating episodes. The main complication with binge eating disorder is obesity. This however, itself causes other negative problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, gallbladder disease, heart disease and certain types of cancer. If you suspect someone you know may have binge eating disorder, confront them with their problems and the facts behind you're reasoning. Try not to be too harsh, as this may come as a shock t them. They will need lots of love and support for the tough time ahead. The effects of binge eating disorder can be quite deadly if not taken care of seriously. Seek help at the first signs of binge eating disorder, and find comfort in knowing you're not alone.


Bulimia also known Bulimia Nervosa is one of the physiological eating disorders that you can have. This can be characterized as episodes of binge eating followed by unhealthy methods of weight loss (purging). People with bulimia have similar characteristics and these include weight and shape concerns.

Some of these inappropriate ways of weight loss include:
Enemas excessive use of laxatives or directives
Compulsive exercising

Bulimic people will eat large amounts of food however, this is not a response of hunger. Binge eating episodes are usually a trigger of depression, stress, of self - esteem issues. Bulimia was only diagnosed as a physical eating disorder in the 1980's. People with Bulimia may look perfectly normal, most of them are normal weight and few tend to be obese. People with bulimia are very high over achievers. Surprisingly enough bulimia effects 10% of college aged woman. About 10% of the total amount of people diagnosed with bulimia are men. 10% of people suffering from Bulimia will die.

These causes of death include:
Cardiac arrest
Other medical complications

Family members diagnosed with an eating disorder such, as bulimia will need a lot of support, for the rough road ahead. Suggest that you're family member see a doctor and/or psychiatrist to help them recover from their eating disorder.

Some medical complications that can occur when you have bulimia can include:
Erosion of tooth enamel because of repeated exposure to acidic gastric contents
Dental cavities, sensitivity to hot or cold food
Swelling or soreness in the salivary glands (from repeated vomiting)
Stomach ulcers
Ruptures of the stomach or esophagus
Abnormal buildup of fluids in the intestines
Distribution in the normal bowel release function
Irregular heartbeat and in severe cases heart attack

Unfortunately bulimia is quite common. However, there is some good news, if you seek professional help, and it is treated properly, bulimia can be overcome. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor for some help on this issue, if you think you might have bulimia.

Questions and Answers
Do you have an eating disorder?

Answer yes or no to each question:

Do you starve yourself on a regular basis?

Do you binge and then self induce vomiting?

Do you feel out of control when you eat?

Do you feel powerful and in control when you are able to abstain from eating?

Do you binge on food when you are experiencing negative feelings? (ie. anger, sadness, etc.)

Do you feel that you do not deserve to eat?

Do you know the calorie content in the foods that you eat?

Do you feel the only control you have in your life is in the areas of food and weight?

Do you believe you are fat, even though people tell you otherwise?

Do you feel that you have to be perfect in everything that you do?

Do you use laxatives, diet pills, or diuretics as a method of weight control?

Do you exercise to burn calories, rather than to stay fit?

Are you secretive about your eating habits?

Do you feel anger towards anyone that questions your eating habits?

Do you feel guilty after you eat?

Do you hear negative messages in your head (i.e. saying you're fat, ugly, worthless, etc.)

Do you avoid social events because there will be food present?

Do you think about food constantly?

Do you believe that life will be perfect and you will be happy if you lose weight?

Do you have an intense fear of gaining weight?

Do you feel ashamed of your eating behaviors?

Do you feel that no matter what you do, it will never be good enough?

Do you think that you may have an eating disorder?

If you have answered yes to three or more of the following questions, it could be a sign that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder or the beginning of one. You may want to consider seeing a therapist or talking with someone at an eating disorders clinic about this matter


Anorexia is one of the physical eating disorders where people starve themselves. Anorexia usually starts to develop around the same time as the body begins to develop. Extreme weight loss occurs when anorexia is present. Generally weighing in at 15% below average. People with anorexia are very thin but usually think they are very obese.

Weight loss occurs by trying these dangerous methods:
Excessive exercise
Intake of laxatives or directives
Not eating

Anorexics have an intense fear of becoming fat. Their personal eating patterns are a result of this fear. This disorder make people think they are overweight even after they become very thin. After a while anorexics become very ill, and close too death. This disease is said to be most common in upper class people, or when people are involved in sports where weight loss is a necessity like dance, theater or modeling.

Some symptoms too look out for are:
Loss of three consecutive menstrual cycles
Not wanting to or refusing too eat in public
Brittle skin
Shortness of breath
Obsessions about calorie intake

Medical risks of being anorexic are:
Shrunken brains
Mineral loss
Low body temperature
Irregular heartbeat
Permanent failure of normal growth
Could develop into Bulimia nervosa

Pregnancy is a real problem for anorexics. For a healthy pregnancy you should gain between 25 to 35 pounds, depending upon you body structure. Telling this to an anorexic is like telling a normal person to gain 100 pounds. You should try and get back on track with you eating. A healthy regular diet is important before trying to conceive.