Obesity itself is not an eating disorder, but people who are obese or who fear becoming obese may develop one. Lets take a look at obesity and its relationship to special eating disorders.
Binge Eating Disorder – The most common eating disorder is binge eating disorder. Approximately 4 million Americans have this disorder. Binge eating disorder is more than just occasionally overeating. It is characterized by eating uncontrollably, quickly eating an unusually large amount of food at one sitting, even when the person is not hungry, and eating in secret because the person is embarrassed about the amount of food he/she eats.
More women than men have binge eating disorder, and most of the people who have it are overweight or obese. Binge eaters eat mostly sugar and fat, and as a result, they may be lacking certain vitamins and nutrients. Many of them are also depressed. Treatments for this disorder include therapy and medications such as antidepressants.
Bulimia Nervosa – Binge eating is also present in another eating disorder, bulimia nervosa. It is estimated that 1.1 to 4.2 percent of females will have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime. Bulimics are caught in a binge/purge cycle. They binge eat, usually in secret, then purge to get rid of the calories just eaten. Purging may involve either self-induced vomiting after eating or using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. People with bulimia may also exercise intensely for long periods of time in attempt to burn off the extra calories taken in during binge eating, or they may go for long periods of time without eating. Many bulimics do a combination or all of these things.
Bulimia affects more women than men and more young women in their teens and twenties than older women. These women are usually obsessed with their weight and truly believe that they are overweight even though most have a normal body weight. It can cause a number of serious health effects, including anemia, dehydration, heart problems, ruptured esophagus, stomach ulcers, and even death. Like binge eating disorder, bulimia is treated with therapy and medications.
Anorexia Nervosa – On the opposite side of binge eating is anorexia nervosa. It affects around 1 to 2 percent of the female population. Anorexia is characterized by self-starvation and obsession with food, weight, and appearance, weight loss of 15% or more below the normal body weight, and an intense fear of being fat. Many of them look emaciated, but theyre convinced they are fat.
Because anorexics literally starve themselves, their bodies are severely depleted of nutrients. As a result, they develop muscular atrophy, dehydration, low blood pressure, and brain and organ damage to name a few. As many as 10 percent of anorexics die. Most anorexics deny they have a problem until the problem gets so bad that they have to be hospitalized. Because anorexia is so life-threatening, the first stage of treatment is getting body weight back to normal. Once this is on track, therapy and medications are used.
Eating disorders are serious disorders and should not be taken lightly. If you suspect you have one or think someone you love does, please seek help. It could be a matter of life and death.