An eating disorder is a condition in which an individual has an unusual relationship with food and/or consumption of food. This can include restricting food, bingeing, vomiting or otherwise purging after eating, or other ritualistic behavior related to eating, usually for the purpose of losing weight or out of fear of gaining weight.
The most commonly recognized eating disorders include:
- refusal to maintain body weight at or above a normal weight for a person’s age, height and activity level
- intense fear of gaining weight, even though the person may be severely underweight
- disturbance in the way one views one’s body; significant distortion in body image; denial of the seriousness of low body weight
- loss of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles in females
In anorexia nervosa the individual is likely to restrict intake of food, sometimes severely. Two subtypes of anorexia nervosa have been categorized, restricting type and binge-eating/purging type.
- recurrent episodes of binge eating. Binge eating is characterized by eating a larger amount of food in a period of time than most people would eat in that same time period (NOTE: this definition of binging is considered controversial and is under review – no easily measured binge has arisen as the perception of the person binging must be taken into account, among other factors)
- using inappropriate behaviors to prevent weight gain or compensate for eating, such as self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics, or excessive exercise
- bingeing and purging behaviors have occurred at least twice per week for three months
- self-image is overly influenced by body shape and weight
The most common conception of bulimia nervosa involves bingeing followed by vomiting, but the disorder may take many other forms. Bulimia nervosa has two subtypes, purging type and non-purging type.
Eating Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified)
Some combination of the above symptoms/behaviors that does not necessarily meet the criteria for anorexia or bulimia exactly; it is estimated that somewhere near 50% of all diagnosed sufferers of eating disorders fall into this category.
(Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition)
Other Eating Problems / Disorders
- Binge eating disorder
- Night-eating syndrome
- Body dysmorphic disorder