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Eating disorders


Eating disorders are the abnormal eating habits which can be on both extremes; excessive consumption of food or insufficient food intake. In the United States, five to ten million female population suffer from eating disorders while the males are recorded to be one million with the same disorder. According to a study carried out by Harvard University in affiliation with Mclean hospital, indicates that binge is the most common type of eating disorder in the US with an approximate of 2% males and 3.5% females suffering from it. Bulimia nervosa came second followed by anorexia nervosa.

This paper will look at the common types of eating disorders as it analyses their r various causes, signs, symptoms and complication, diagnosis and treatment form credible references.

Causes of eating disorders.

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) (2004) what causes eating disorders? Retrieved from

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On 25th February 2010

NEDA grant us the permission to print and copy the article only for educational purpose. It states that the causes of eating disorders have a combination of various long-term behaviors that range from social factors, biological interpersonal, psychological and emotional factors. Since the actual causes of the emotionally and physically damaging conditions are still under research, they are generally the causative issues that affect eating habits. Food has been used by many people as a compensation of emotional feelings that are overwhelming. The need to check ones weight through reduced food consumption always stems from the inner emotional needs like the fear of growing fat. Habits such as dieting bingeing and purging are the resultant behaviors that help one to cope with emotional pains. They help one feel in control of his or her life even though most of these behaviors have had damaging effects on one’s self-esteem and emotional and physical health.

Low self esteem, feeling of inadequacy to control ones life and emotional factors like depression stress, anxiety, anger and loneliness are considered as the major psychological factors which contribute to eating disorders. Interpersonal problems that contribute to this problem usually originate from how one copes with his/ her surrounding. For example, if one has been sexually and physically abused in the past and feels he has lost control of his life he may indulge in eating disorders. Other social and interpersonal factors that affect one are due to being ridiculed and teased over his/ her weight. One may have difficulty on how express his emotional feelings thus leading to eating disorders. One may also be troubled by his/her personal relationships or the family members.

Some cultural factors see thinness as the ideal body perfection. People in such a society will have the tendency of suffering from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa so as to fit to the societal expectations. This form of disorder has mainly affected the lives of young women and men so that they could fit into the bracket of the narrow concept of defining beauty. The reverse is also true where by, other cultures define beauty is in terms of largeness. So, depending one’s cultural norms people’s eating disorders have had their roots from social expectations which base the value of a person on the physical appearance rather than one’s inner strengths and quality.

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Scientists have also given biological factors which have contributed to eating disorders that originate from hormonal imbalances. These hormones do not control the chemical reaction in the brain that signals digestion hunger and appetite. Researchers are however still trying to establish the actual causes of these hormonal imbalances. Eating disorders have also been found to run in certain families due to genetic factors especially in the case of obesity.

Signs and symptoms

Lori, H (2007) eating disorder and warning signs. Retrieved from

On February 25, 2010

This is a credible site for it provides both the signs and symptoms of the three common eating disorders; namely, bulimia nervosa, binge and anorexia nervosa. It defines the types of the eating disorders in details. The importance of knowing the symptoms of eating disorder is a crucial step of prevention. The first early general signs of eating disorders are characterized by the following aspects, sudden reading of labels of food packages to know grams of calories and fat grams, starting dieting sessions, skipping meals, not telling the truth about how the food was eaten,

Anorexia nervosa is the insufficient intake of fluids and food which eventually leads to drastic weight loss. People suffering from this eating disorder condition do a lot of physical exercises and strictly monitor their diets. They also have the feeling of being overweight even though they are extremely underweight. They show significant weight loss yet they deny the fact. Such a

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person is always feeling cold all the time. This makes lanugo hair to grow on the body and face for protection. The persons may also feel dizzy and faintly all the time. There is extensive hair loss and the skin turns color to become yellowish due poor functioning of the liver.

Bulimia nervosa is a eating conditions that controls a person’ life for it’s characterized by excessive consumption of food followed by purging. This can be done through taking of laxatives that leads to either vomiting or diarrhea. A person suffering from this disorder usually has constant stomach problems which include indigestion, heartburn, pains and flues. The person may also complain of sour throat due to consistent purging of gastric acids. It also leads to swelling and puffiness of the cheeks. Such a person uses diet pills, laxatives, diuretics or even poisonous substances. Due to self induced vomiting the persons eyes always have red spots or are bloodshot. There is also reddening of at the back of the hands and on the lips. Dentists have reported that the purging discolors the teeth and leads to higher chances of developing cavity. The weight fluctuates due to frequent starving and binging

Binge eating disorder has been said by New York resechers as having longer life than bulimia or anorexia since it is more chronic and stable. According to this research, binge is more of a psychiatric disorder than an eating disorder. It is characterized by excessive uncontrolled eating habits that results to obesity. A person develops behaviors like stealing food, hurriedly eating in secret places, eating when angry and not hungry and not knowing when to stop eating. Other emotional distresses also make the person eat like when frustrated, upset, and sad or overwhelmed.

Medical complications

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Wonderlich , S., Mitchell , E & Zwann M (2005) Eating disorders review part 1: an academy of eating disorders, Radcliffe publishing, issue no 1857756347, pp 127- 134

Medical complications associated with eating disorders have affected almost every organ of the human body. The book offers literature review of medical publications within the period 2002 -2003 of the pathophysiolagical complications of eating disorders and their management.

There is a link between diabetes mellitus and eating disorders. Patients with eating disorders have been found to be suffering from this type of diabetes. This is because of disordered eating habits that lead to insulin omission leading to higher glycoslated hemoglobin levels. Cardiovascular complications have also been noted in most patients with eating disorders. They complain of chest pains as a result of thickening of the carotid intima media. There is also low phosphorus level (hypophosphatemia) due to severe malnourishment. Much of this condition has been seen especially with men with anorexia nervosa. Binge medical complications have the highest effects on body organs than the other forms ( Wonderlich , Mitchell , & Zwann

, 2005 pp132). Such complications include visual impairment, hypertension, diabetes, respiratory complications, asthma and osteoarthritis.

Patients with eating disorders have also been known to abuse medication. Most of the patients use over-the-counter medications which are used for suppressing appetites, laxatives and diuretics thus posing a risk to their health. Other general medical complications include pneumomediastinum, low fever response to bacterial infections, weak respiratory muscles, neutropenia and borne mineral transformation, pericardial effusion and gastric dilation ( Wonder

lich , Mi tchell


& Zwann

, 2005 pp134)


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Corcoran , J., Walsh, J. (2006) clinical assessment and diagnosis in social work Oxford University publishing press US, issue no 195168305, pp 231-135.

This book is social workers guide text that helps in competence development in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-1V-TR). It gives the different criterion to diagnosis eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia nervosa is seen when one does not sustain the 85% normal body weight either through binge eating or purging. Anorexia usually happens when there is restrictive food intake and exercising excessively. Another diagnosis criterion of anorexia is the absence of three consecutive menstrual cycles (amenorrhea) which is an endocrine problem among female ( Corcoran & Walsh, 2006 pp 231).

With bulimia, purging and over eating behaviors occur at least twice a week. Generally people with eating disorders have also been diagnosed with disorders of one’s personality. Personality associations have indicated that personality group B and C often suffer from personality disorders. Bulimia for instance is common among cluster B and C characterized by personality disorders like avoidance and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Another aspect is the mental state. Most people with eating disorders have been found to have serious mental complications such as anxiety, suicide attempts and depression.

The establishment on whether one has any form of eating disorder should be routinely done. This should mainly apply to people who have already been diagnosed with a previous disorder especially among the adolescent girls. Screening for any possibility of any inappropriate eating habit usually follow the order; clinical interview, self monitoring by the client for purging or bingeing eating behavior, questionnaire measurement, medical evaluation which include assessment and routine check ups ( Corcoran & Walsh, 2006 pp 235).


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Carlos M., Grilo , C James E. & Mitchell J (2009) the treatment of eating disorders: a clinical handbook, Guilford publishing Press, issue no 606234463, pp 158

Family based therapies ware first developed in 1980 to analyze adolescents and treat them for

anorexia nervosa eating disorder. This therapy is a form of treatment where patients are placed

in a program that will monitor their body weight and posthospitalization. It a five year follows up

therapy that has assisted individual family members to gain normal eating habits ( Carlos, Grilo ,

& Mitchell

2009, pp 294)

Dialectical behavioral therapy has been used to treat adolescents who have attempted suicide due to binge eating disorders. It uses randomized control trials. It is an outpatient cognitive behavioral therapy that has helped women with extreme emotional distress that makes them have recurrent suicidal behaviors. It integrates philosophical dialects to strategies based on acceptance principles to those with borderline personality disorder ( Carlos, Grilo , & Mitchell

2009, pp 316)

Cognitive behavior therapy was developed for treating bulimia nervosa but has been recently developed to accommodate the treatment of other eating disorders. It tackles issues pertaining to interpersonal challenges, low self-esteem, mood swings and poor clinical perfectionism. The principle behind this method is the maintenance of psychopathology theory for self evaluation ( Carlos, Grilo


& Mitchell

2009, pp 243)

Medical and nutritional evaluation has bean used for evaluations and treatment of young person’s eating disorders. They have been used for correcting medicinal rehabilitation in the

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case of bulimia patients and nutritional rehabilitations have assisted patients suffering from anorexia nervosa. The medication has also catered for psychopathological symptoms and forms of comorbidty which are normally psychiatric conditions ( Carlos, Grilo , & Mitchell 2009, pp 15, 187, 156).

Finally, self help groups and self examinations have assisted eating disorders patients. They have been very effective in helping all eating disorder types. In case where mental disorders were the cause of eating disorders, studies have shown that they highly value support groups rather than even medication or treatments offered by medics. ( Carlos, Grilo , & Mitchell 2009, pp 359. several modes have been applied in self help approach which include the use of manuals, video, web based and CD-ROM pp360 that have helped to overcome binge eating habits and anorexia nervosa.