Introduction

Welcome to our Eating Disorders topic center. There are several different eating disorders, all linked together by their central characteristic of disordered eating behavior. By disordered, we mean to suggest conditions where normal eating habits are highly disrupted and polarized. In some eating disorders the patient ceases to eat at all, while in others, the patient may binge-eat, consuming extremely large servings of food in an out of control manner.

In this topic center, we are concerned primarily with eating disorders of late adolescence and adulthood, including Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorders. Eating (and Feeding) Disorders of childhood (such as Pica (the eating of non-food substances), Rumination Disorder, and Feeding Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood are handled under our Childhood/Developmental Disorders topic heading.

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, sometimes lethal eating disorder that strikes predominantly teenaged females. Afflicted patients become obsessed with the idea that they are "too fat", and that they may only redeem themselves by becoming thinner. Anorexic patients proceed to starve themselves, severely reducing their food intake to a fraction of normal. Some young women take up an exclusive food restricting pattern, while others cycle between periods where they attempt to starve themselves, and periods where they lose control and binge (A binge being defined as eating way too much food in too short a time (multiple snack periods spread out during the day don't count). In either case, the patient is preoccupied with self-control through starvation, and losses of such control become occasions for great shame and self-hatred. In post-pubescent women (who have begun to have their periods), this starvation diet and dramatic associated weight loss may lead to "amenorrhea" or the stopping of normal menstruation cycles.

A cousin disorder to Anorexia, Bulimia is characterized by cycles of binge eating followed by misguided, sometimes dangerous attempts to purge already eaten food (via vomiting, taking laxatives, or exercising too much). Like anorexic patients, bulimic patients are often teenaged women whose self-esteem becomes inordinately tied into their perception of how they look. Unlike anorexics, though, bulimic patients typically maintain their normal weight. Food binges are often kept secrete, and following binges, it is common for patients to feel very ashamed of their loss of control, and to attempt to rid themselves of what they have eating by vomiting, exercising to the point where it interfere with normal routines, and fasting for a period of time thereafter

A new diagnostic category Binge Eating Disorder is similar to Bulimia inasmuch as the two disorders both share a common core of binge eating behavior. However, compensatory behaviors (vomiting, exercise, etc.) don't follow binges in Binge Eating Disorder.

These eating disorders carry serious health risks and can sometimes result in death. Medical and Dental complications can occur as a result of starvation, vomiting and abuse of exercise. A small but significant number of eating disorder patients die from their disorder, convinced that it is better to starve to death than to be fat. It is vital that eating disordered people receive treatment for their disorders. Appropriate treatment includes medical attention and psychotherapy, both from professionals specializing in eating disorders treatment.