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Identifying Eating Disorders—Within Yourself or a Loved One

Updated on June 26, 2013

Eating Disorders are a Very Real and Devastating Disorder

Eating disorders affect many people world wide and cause many negative health effects that destroy the lives of the person whom has developed the disorder and for those around them. Eating disorders are developed very innocently and quickly grow, becoming a serious addiction that controls the life of the person who has developed the disorder. Soon the eating disorder takes over, gaining control over the person, making one frail, sick, and weak.

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is defined by an abnormal eating habit, most generally one will intake an insufficient or excessive amount of food that negatively impacting ones physical and mental health. An eating disorder is an obsession with either food or a certain body image that one desires.

What Are the Different Forms of Eating Disorders?

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a term used for people who have an irrational fear of gaining weight as combined with severe diet restriction as well as having a sense of body image distortion. One who has anorexia nervosa fear food and eating because they believe they will gain weight from every bite, and when they look at themselves in the mirror they only see a negative body image, believing they are fat (even when they are actually skinny and becoming frail). People with anorexia nervosa weigh themselves obsessively, gaze at themselves in the mirror constantly, and restrict their diet so much it can become dangerous. Outside of medical terms, anorexia and anorexia nervosa are used interchangeably, but this is a common misconception. The term anorexia is used when a person restrict their diet lower than the normal proportions of a healthy diet because of a lack of appetite. People with anorexia nervosa do not have a lack of appetite, but instead they restrict their diet purposely because they have a fear of weight gain combined with a severe distorted body image. People with anorexia nervosa feel hunger pangs, but they deny themselves food because they cannot fathom the thought of gaining even a small amount of weight. Food makes them nervous, uneasy, and uncomfortable. Anyone can develop anorexia nervosa, but it is more common in adolescent girls and young women more than among boys or young men.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by one who consumes a large amount of food, followed by them trying to rid themselves of the large amount of calories by purging (making themselves vomit). People with bulimia nervosa can rid themselves of food in other ways besides purging as well, some take laxatives and/or exercise excessively because they have a heightened concern of weight gain due to the extreme amount of food they tend to consume at one time. People who have bulimia nervosa may also have anorexia nervosa tendencies. Most bulimics fast for an extended period of time, followed by a binge, which creates guilt and hatred toward themselves so they purge right after binge eating. This dangerous habit is created in a person who is trying hard to maintain weight in a self-imposed threshold. Bulimia nervosa is nine times more likely to occur in young women more than in young men, but men do develop this disorder as well.

Binge Eating

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder among Americans. Binge eaters eat an abnormally large amount of food in one sitting (more than the average person would eat). People who binge eat do so at least two to three times per week and do not purge afterward. They are not concerned with weight gain as much as they are addicted to food. People with binge eating disorder are more than likely to be obese due to the fact that they can not control the amount of food they consume in a single sitting.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified

An eating disorder does not need a specific name to become dangerous for the one who develops it, indeed many people show signs and symptoms of all eating disorder st once and therefore they cannot be defined or diagnosed with a single disorder. An eating disorder is defined by abnormal eating habits that pose a danger to ones health, body and mind. Just because one is not diagnosed with a single eating disorder does not mean that their actions or behaviors that surround eating, exercise, and body image or normal. If one has a irrational fear of weight gain or an addiction to food, they may have an eating disorder, but that doesn't always mean that their disorder can be specifically defined.

The media portrays unrealistic ideals what women (and men) should look like. These ideals can cause detriment to young women making them develop unhealthy eating habits and behaviors and develop eating disorders.
The media portrays unrealistic ideals what women (and men) should look like. These ideals can cause detriment to young women making them develop unhealthy eating habits and behaviors and develop eating disorders. | Source

Causes of Eating Disorders

There are many different causes of eating disorders which include biological, psychological, environmental and/or social reasons. Many people who develop an eating disorder also have body dysmorphic disorder, which is when one see themselves and body is a distorted way, believing they are fat and/or ugly in their own skin. There are other possibilities why one would develop such a disorder such as environmental, social, or interpersonal issues or reasoning. Often times the media in the United States is to blame for young people developing eating disorders since they are constantly bombarded with skinny, muscular, and beautiful (airbrushed) people on a daily basis.

Effects and Complications of Eating Disorders

There are many dangers one is at risk fro when they develop an eating disorder over a long period of time. One is at extreme risk for malnutrition, whether they binge and purge, avoid food altogether, or over eat. People who have eating disorders also suffer from weakness, fatigue, sensitivity to cold, weight-loss, reduced growth, and reduced libido. Men who suffer from eating disorder have reduced beard growth and can have a reduction in erections. People who suffer from bulimia can have hoarseness in their throat and voice and can develop acid reflux due to purging. Some patients with eating disorders have even lost their lives to to prolonged damage to their bodies. An eating disorder is very dangerous and causes many ill effects, so it is very important that one gets the help they need to develop more healthy habits to live longer and better lives.


Do You Have an Eating Disorder?

Do you stare at yourself in the mirror as hatred boils up inside of you? Do you stop yourself from eating even when your stomach screams a growls to be fed? Do you make yourself throw up in hopes it will give you a sense of beauty? Do you step on the scale everyday but you never feel a sense of accomplishment, but instead feel like you have more work to do? Do you always notice your flaws without ever recognizing your beauty?

An eating disorder is a real and serious addiction. One with an eating disorder is addicted to the sense of beauty that is portrayed in the media; they feel that they need to look like the skinny models or muscular men. Eating disorders is not just a “girl disorder” as many believe, even though it afflicts more women than it does men, but it is still very possible for men to develop eating disorders as well. Many people develop eating disorders or very strict dieting and exercising habits to form their bodies into a more desirable shape. Even when the person who has developed such habits, they are never satisfied and continue to lose, form, and obsess. They stand in the mirror feeling disgusted instead of accomplished. They pick and poke at their food and nibble but have a hard time feeling full or satisfied because they are only thinking of the fat that will develop from it. Some binge eat, giving them a sudden flood of calories, then guilt overwhelms them, and the feeling of bloating sets in, followed by hatred, so one runs to the bathroom purging the food that they had just consumed. One becomes so obsessed by their flaws that they are no longer able to see their personal and unique beauty, and their goals seem to be non existent and their dreams become unreachable. Instead of bettering their lives and bodies they soon begin to destroy them. Exhaustion, fatigue, and weakness begin to take over and they spend most of their time thinking about food, which makes them hate themselves more. They mistake their physical weakness for mental weakness and begin to become more strict, which only ends up hospitalizing them, forcing them to either choose recovery or death.

Does a Loved One Have an Eating Disorder?

Do you notice something strange about your loved ones eating habits? Do they poke at their food at the dinner table and struggle to put the fork to their mouth? Does your loved one eat a few bites and claim to be full when you know they haven't eaten all day? Or do they eat a full plate or maybe two and then immediately excuse themselves to the bathroom? Have you ever heard your loved one vomit when you know they are not sick? Have you notice that your loved one has either lost an extreme amount of weight or gained some? Have you notice a sudden weakness in your loved one? If you believe your loved one may be at risk fro developing an eating disorder or already has, it is extremely important to talk to them about it. One must know the causes and risk their disorder has to understand that this behavior is not normal and is indeed very dangerous. If you think your loved one has an eating disorder, please help them find the help they need and deserve.


Treating an eating disorder is a very delicate process and it is quite possible that a person may need more than one type of treatment options, which can include personal and private therapy, rehabilitation centers, nutritional counseling, and group therapy (or self help groups). Some people may need more intensive therapy than others, depending on the longevity and severity of the disorder. For more information on treatment options of eating disorders please contact a professional immediately if you believe yourself or a loved one is at risk or has developed a dangerous eating disorder.


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