All About Eating Disorders (Taken From the NEDA website)
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.
- Frequent episodes of eating “large” (subjective) quantities of food in short periods of time.
- Feeling out of control over eating behavior during the episode.
- Feeling depressed, guilty, or disgusted by the behavior.
- There are also several behavioral indicators of BED including eating when not hungry, eating alone because of embarrassment over quantities consumed, eating until uncomfortably full, feeling stress/tension that is only relieved after eating, or feeling “numb” when eating on “autopilot”.
Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder
The health risks of BED may include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, type 2 diabetes
About Binge Eating Disorder
- The prevalence of BED is estimated to be approximately 1-5% of the general population (3-15 million people)
- Binge eating disorder affects women slightly more often than men–estimates indicate that about 60% of people struggling with binge eating disorder are female, 40% are male
- BED is often associated with symptoms of depression.
- People struggling with binge eating disorder often express distress, shame, and guilt over their eating behaviors.
Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
- Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height.
- Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat,” even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight.
- Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty.
- Dramatic weight loss.
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
- Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
- Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat.”
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories taken in.
Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa involves self-starvation.; The body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally, so it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This “slowing down” can have serious medical consequences:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
- Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
- Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
- Dry hair and skin, hair loss is common.
- Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
About Anorexia Nervosa
- Anorexia affects approximately .5-1% of the population (1-3 million people)
- Approximately 90-95% of anorexia nervosa sufferers are girls and women.
- Between 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die. The probabilities of death increases within that range depending on the length of the condition.
- Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition.
Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.
- Regular intake of large amounts of food accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating behavior.
- Regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, fasting, and/or obsessive or compulsive exercise.
- Extreme concern with body weight and shape.
Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
- Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or finding wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food.
- Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics.
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the compulsive need to “burn off” calories taken in.
- Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area.
- Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
- Discoloration or staining of the teeth.
- Creation of lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions.
- Continued exercise despite injury; overuse injuries.
Health Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa can be extremely harmful to the body. The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles can damage the entire digestive system and purging behaviors can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:
- Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death. Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium and sodium from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
- Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
- Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
- Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation
About Bulimia Nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa affects 1-2% of adolescent and young adult women (3-6 million people)
- Approximately 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female.
- People struggling with bulimia nervosa usually appear to be of average body weight.
- Many people struggling with bulimia nervosa recognize that their behaviors are unusual and perhaps dangerous to their health.
- Bulimia nervosa is frequently associated with symptoms of depression and changes in social adjustment.
Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
Many people can still have eating disorder issues but not fit into a specific category. It’s still important to get help for these eating disorder symptoms. Often many clients find themselves in this group.
Examples of EDNOS
- Menstruation is still occurring despite meeting all other criteria for anorexia nervosa.
- All conditions are present to qualify for anorexia nervosa except the individual’s current weight is in the normal range or above.
- Purging or other compensatory behaviors are not occurring at a frequency less than the strict criteria for bulimia nervosa
- Purging without Binging—sometimes known as purging disorder
- Chewing and spitting out large amounts of food but not swallowing
Together we can increase awareness and help all people struggling with an eating disorder get the help they need.
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Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”
Start your own healing by downloading her Free Stop the Cycle of Binge Eating guide or her Free Hunger – Fullness Scale.