Eating Disorders


Eating disorders are among many medical conditions that affect human beings and greatly interfere with their health. There are described as disturbances in eating behavior and are usually marked by two extremes such that a person may be taking extremely small or large quantities of food (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009).

They are usually accompanied by feelings of distress or great concern of body weight and shape. Studies of National Institute of Mental Health indicate that though at times a person may be eating normally, sometimes one may experience an uncontrollable urge to eat more or less food (2009).

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The disorder may affect people of all ages but high prevalence is recorded during adolescence and early adulthood. As much as they are treatable, effective treatment has not been identified for the chronic types. Moreover, the underlying behavioral, biological, psychological and social causes have not been identified. With that background in mind, this paper shall discuss more about eating disorders since they are on the increase and focus on the growing trend.

Examples of Eating Disorders

It is important to get an overview of some eating disorders and their characteristics to be able to understand their growing trend. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2009), anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the main types of eating disorders. However, there is a third group of eating disorders usually referred as eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS).

The category of EDNOS contains disorders that are almost similar to anorexia nervosa or bulimia though they present different characteristics. For instance, binge eating is usually classified under the third category and is almost similar to bulimia nervosa. There are usually gender variations in eating disorders since women are affected more than men.

People suffering from anorexia nervosa are usually emaciated and thin. They are mostly reluctant to maintain the normal healthy body weight and have a distorted body image. Due to low body weight, women and girls suffer from lack of menstrual periods. Anorexia nervosa patients usually practice weight control measures such as excessive exercise, dieting, induced vomiting, use of diuretics and laxatives.

Individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa are characterized by eating extremely large amount of food at different episodes. However, to compensate for the high amounts of food eaten, they usually engage in behaviors such as fasting, exercise, vomiting and use of laxatives. Although they may have normal body weight, they usually suffer from great fear of gaining weight (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009).

Binge eating is an eating disorder usually characterized by uncontrollable urge of eating food. People suffering from the disorder are usually overweight and obese since they do not exercise, purge or fast after eating excessively. Further studies indicate that since patients suffer from guilt and shame due to their binge eating behavior, they usually eat more to suppress their feelings.

Most of the eating disorders coexist together with other psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety and problems related to drug and substance abuse (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009).

Binge eating disorder is the most common disorder compared with bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa according to the studies of Hudson, Hiripi, Pope, & Kessler, (2007). This is due to the fact that results of a survey that was conducted in the same study indicated that among all individuals interviewed, 0.9% and 0.3% of women and men respectively had suffered from anorexia nervosa while 0.5% of men and 1.5% of women had suffered from bulimia nervosa.

On the contrary, 2% of men and 3.5% of women had suffered from binge eating. The study affirmed that all the eating disorders occur mostly in people suffering from problems like anxiety and substance abuse disorders (Hudson, Hiripi, Pope, & Kessler, 2007).

Trend and Incident Rates of Eating Disorders

Although initially eating disorders were not recognized as a serious medical conditions, current research and prevalence rates indicate that the trend of the same is growing tremendously. According to the studies of National Eating Disorders Association (2005, incidence of eating of eating disorders has doubled since the year 1960.

Currently, there is higher incidence in children since some conditions have been recorded even in individuals as young as seven years of age. Several studies which have been conducted in different parts of the world indicate that incident rates are on the increase not only in America but also in some countries in Europe.

For instance, according to the studies of Keski-Rahkonen, et al. (2007), results of the research conducted indicated that the incident rates of anorexia nervosa were increasing steadily during the last decades. Same studies indicate that in the last thirty years, incident rate has risen from 0.12-0.45 per one hundred thousand people.

The same rising trend was observed in other different places like New York State, Scotland and London. The trend of anorexia nervosa reached its peak in the 1980s and that is why it was referred to as the disease of the 80s.

Since bulimia is a dominant eating disorder, it is important to look at the growing trend of the same. Bulimia unlike nervosa is a recent disease since it started to be diagnosed medically in 1970s. However, some few cases were identified in the twentieth century although it was not very clear whether it was bulimia or other related disorders.

Nevertheless, since then, studies indicate that the incident rates have been on the increase. According to National Eating Disorders Association (2005), the incident rates of bulimia in females aged ten to thirty nine year from the year 1988 to 1993 has increased threefold. It is important to mention that the rates may vary due to the fact that obtaining data is not very easy based on the fact that most people suffering from eating disorders do not seek medical attention.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Eating disorders is a sensitive issue due to the fact that more often than not, victims have a problem with body image and perception. Due this, as highlighted earlier, it has always been difficult to obtain the right statistics because in most cases victims avoid any form of exposure.

There are other factors that can lead to a variation of incident rates like using the internet to obtain advice other than seeking medical attention as highlighted in the studies of (Currin, 2005). Therefore, although results of most studies fail to tarry, it will not be an understatement to conclude that a growing trend has been observed.

Research has indicated that much concerning eating disorders is yet to be studied. For instance, it would be necessary to discuss how underlying causes like social and cultural factors affect brain systems in order to cause the disorder. Psychologists and neurologists should therefore study the whole process that results to an eating disorder.

Understanding the brain processes of people suffering from the disorder will help to develop better methods of treatment and also help to identify when a person fully recovers. Although studies of National Institute of Mental Health (2009) indicate that doctors, neurologists and other researchers are currently involved in rigorous research concerning various factors regarding eating disorders, it is important to become more focused and committed in order to combat the problem.


Currin, L. (2005). Time trends in eating disorder incidence. The British Journal of Psychiatry (186 ), 132-135.

Hudson, J., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry , 61, 348-358.

Keski-Rahkonen, A., Hoek, H. W., Susser, E. S., Linna, M. S., Sihvola, E., Raevuori, A., et al. (2007). Epidemiology and Course of Anorexia Nervosa in the Community. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from

National Eating Disorders Association. (2005). The Prevalence of Eating Disorders. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from

National Institute of Mental Health. (2009). Eating Disorders. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from

Eating disorders


An eating disorder is a condition in which an individual develops abnormal eating habits. An affected person experiences extreme reduction or increase in food intake. Another major experience is the great anxiety about one’s body mass and/or shape. Eating disorders may develop when a person simply starts eating smaller or larger amounts of food than the normal intake. With time, the person develops a strong urge to eat more or less food which eventually becomes uncontrollable.

Eating disorders occur more during teenage years or early maturity though it can as well develop during childhood or late maturity. The most affected are women and girls since they are much more concerned about their body appearance than men and boys. This concern makes them change their eating behavior from time to time to those that will suit their desired body appearances.

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Though treatable medically, eating disorders are complex with biological and psychological causes. In most cases they co-exist with other disorders such as anxiety, despair or drug abuse (Nagle 84). People suffering from eating disorders are more likely to suffer from complicated diseases such as heart or kidney failure which could be fatal.


Anorexia is a both eating and psychological disorder that is initiated as a person begins to diet in order to lose weight. The desire to become thinner drives the individual to continue with the restrictive eating which is most often accompanied by other behaviors that would enhance weight loss. Too much exercising and overuse of drugs are the most used ways of losing weight. Individuals may even go to the point of starving themselves just to feel the power of control over their bodies.

Anorexia is characterized by low levels of body fats which lead to alteration of body shape. Both girls and women may experience loss of their menstrual periods due to the drastic change in diet and/or amount of food taken. Affected individuals also have a strong fear to put on weight and this makes them have an uneasy eating habit. People with anorexia seem to pay more attention to food and weight control and they usually weigh themselves more often than those who are not.

Though anorexia has no definite causes, genetic composition may determine the vulnerability of a person to develop this disorder. Another possible contribution is a dysfunction of the hypothalamus in one’s brain. Other factors that are risky to anorexia development are poor feeding habits and general under eating as infants as well as maternal depression. Individual negativity and the desire to be perfect can result to the development of anorexia (Poppink 1).

A person with anorexia disorder may be treated as an outpatient or may be hospitalized in case of organ dysfunction resulting from severe weight loss. In such cases the treatment should begin in correcting the malnutrition and this should include feeding the patient by tubes that go through the mouth. Increased eating schedules and social activities accompanied by a decrease in physical exercise can contribute largely to weight gain.

The treatment of anorexia may require more focus on psychological and medical attention than on weight gain. It is therefore necessary to get medical provision and diet advice. Psychological therapy is also very important either as an individual or as a group or family.

Weight management by a nutritionist is recommended as a healthy alternative to weight loss. Any suitable treatment should deal with self control and most importantly, self esteem to help the individual to accept how he/she is in order to live a healthy life both emotionally and physically.


Bulimia is an eating disorder that is different from anorexia in that a person develops frequent “eating habits and at large amounts than usual” (Derenne 27). The person also feels that he/she lacks the power to control the over eating. Surprisingly, this over eating is accompanied by certain behaviors for compensation, such as exercising excessively, induced vomiting and fasting.

Just like anorexia, people with bulimia have a constant fear to gain weight and are so desperate to lose it. Because of this, they are very much unhappy about their body form and size. Bulimia disorder is often accompanied by mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression or abuse of drugs.

There are physical complications that result from the frequent vomits in people with bulimia, including gastrointestinal problems and oral-related problems. In some cases, bulimia development is related to gene composition hence can be inherited. Another very important factor determining the development of bulimia is culture (Jennifer 2). For example, in the modern society, there is the pressure to become thin and this can influence people greatly especially those that want to be accepted in a certain society.

Bulimia has some long time complications occurring as a result of the habits that an individual develops in order to compensate eating. They include chronic inflammation of the throat and swelling of neck and jaw glands as a result of frequent vomiting. Wearing out of tooth enamel and teeth decay may also occur due to contact with stomach acids during vomiting. Another severe effect of vomiting in people with bulimia is dehydration due to clearing of fluids (Dryden 1).

The treatment for bulimia depends on an individual and requires a combination of therapies which include nutritional advice, psychological counseling to establish healthy eating habits as well as medical treatment especially in patients who have developed serious health complications.

Antidepressants are recommended to help bulimia patients who have been depressed and/or anxious. Treatment of bulimia in many people is done in steps and should therefore be started early enough to increase the chances of the patient to recover.

Compulsive overeating

Compulsive overeating is an eating disorder where a person becomes literally addicted to food and uses food as a tool to control his/her emotions. Whenever they have problems or are stressed, people with compulsive overeating turn to food to console and control themselves. They use food to make them feel safe and in some kind of control. Unlike bulimia, people suffering from compulsive overeating do not try to get rid of the extra food they eat.

They end up eating large amounts of food repeatedly without purging and with time they gain a lot of weight and become obese. They feel shame for being overweight with general lack of self-esteem and this causes them to turn to food in order to deal with such emotions. They end up repeating this cycle over and over again. Unlike anorexia, compulsive overeating is common in both men and women.

The psychological problems that may result to food addiction include misery and pressure, tiredness due to overworking, anxiety and sadness. These problems make people develop behaviors such as eating even when they are not hungry, hiding themselves when they are eating, eating faster than usual, inability to stop eating no matter how full they are, embarrassment over eating in the presence of other people. Some may even go to the extreme of eating uncooked food.

Just like any other eating disorder, “compulsive overeating may cause other health problems” (McDonald 31). The complication of these problems is determined by the duration during which a person has had an eating disorder and how severe the disorder has been. Compulsive overeaters are at high risks of suffering from heart problems, kidney failure, high blood pressure and even stroke. The stomach may rupture and bones weaken in extreme cases of compulsive overeating.

Compulsive overeating treatment should aim at psychological and emotional therapy since this disorder is a result of mental problems and depression. Counseling programs are also important to help compulsive eaters learn better and healthy ways of dealing with stress and other problems in life.

Dealing with depression alone cannot completely end this disorder; clinical signs of depression should be treated medically as well. An effective program on weight loss, therefore, should consist of a good diet, change in lifestyle, nutritional advice, medication if necessary and support. Primarily, compulsive overeaters are treated with antidepressants which are as effective as psychological treatment in behavioral therapy.


Eating disorders are very serious mental situations. The affected individuals are obsessed with eating and are more concerned about their physical appearance to the extent of allowing themselves to suffer and risk their health in the long run due to poor diet. Eating disorders take decades to treat; treatment should therefore start as early as the disorder is diagnosed. Recovering from eating disorders involves long-term changes and professional assistance as well as support from family and friends is necessary.

Works Cited

Derenne, Lillian. Body image, the media and eating disorders. California. Barnes & Noble, 2001. Print.

Dryden, Roxanne. “Anorexia Nervosa.” 2010- November 2010,

Jennifer, Stevens. A Note to Self. New York Times, 17th November, 2006.

Poppink, Joanna. “What happens to Anorexic girls when they become anorexic young women?” 2008- November 2010,

McDonald, Jerry. Reducing the number of deaths with Anorexia Nervosa. New York Times. 3rd March, 2005.

Nagle, Marianne. Eating disorders. New York. Wordsworth Publishers, 2004. Print.


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