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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious behavior problems. They include:

Anorexia nervosa, in which you become too thin, but you don't eat enough because you think you are fat

Bulimia nervosa, involving periods of overeating followed by purging, sometimes through self-induced vomiting or using laxatives

Binge-eating, which is out-of-control eating

Women are more likely than men to have eating disorders. They usually start in the teenage years and often occur along with depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse.
Eating disorders can cause heart and kidney problems and even death. Getting help early is important. Treatment involves monitoring, mental health therapy, nutritional counseling and sometimes medicines.1

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the average American woman is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 117 pounds. With all the emphasis on thinness in today’s society, it’s no wonder that girls and young women feel they have to look like Heidi Klum.

While there is no single known cause of eating disorders, several things may contribute to the development of these disorders:

Culture. The U.S. has a social and cultural ideal of extreme thinness. Women partially define themselves by how physically attractive they are.

Personal characteristics. Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and poor self-image often accompany eating disorders.

Other emotional disorders. Other mental health problems, like depression or anxiety, occur along with eating disorders.

Stressful events or life changes. Things like starting a new school or job or being teased and traumatic events like rape can lead to the onset of eating disorders.

Biology. Studies are being done to look at genes, hormones, and chemicals in the brain that may have an effect on the development of, and recovery from eating disorders.

Families. The attitude of parents about appearance and diet affects their kids' attitudes. Also, if your mother or sister has bulimia, you are more likely to have it.2

For more information on eating disorders, visit the MedlinePlus eating disorder page at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/eatingdisorders.html for information on all aspects of eating disorders, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and more.

1. From the National Institute of Mental Health
2. Body Image: Loving Your Body Inside and Out. http://womenshealth.gov/bodyimage/eatingdisorders (accessed 6/9/2010)

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