Overview of Eating Disorders

In this overview of eating disorders we learn about the specifics of a number of eating disorders. This article also gives a brief overview of the other eating disorder articles on our site. Continue reading to learn an overview of eating disorders.

Eating Disorders (ED) is a set of problems that people face in eating in a healthy and balanced way. There are a variety of ways in which eating can be disordered, and this overview will introduce them, as well as point to the other articles in the group.

What Happens in an Eating Disorder?

Although many people have only heard of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and perhaps binge eating disorder (BED), there are actually a number of eating disorders and a person can move from having one disorder to having another. The eating disorders have a variety of causes, but they all have one or more of these features:

  • Limiting Food in an Eating Disorder

Many people limit their food at certain times while maintaining a nutritionally healthy and balanced diet. But in eating disorders, people limit food by reducing portion size to an unhealthily small amount, by fasting to the point at which their body lacks proper nutrition, or by chewing food, but spitting it out rather than swallowing it.

  • Eating Excess Food in an Eating Disorder

Many people occasionally or even frequently overeat by consuming more food than their bodies need to maintain a healthy weight. But in eating disorders, people may eat up to 10,000 - 20,000 calories in a setting or 50,000 calories in a day, roughly 5 - 10 times the amount of food most people actually need in a day.

  • Counteracting Consumption of Food in an Eating Disorder

Many people who have, for example, put on a few extra pounds on a vacation or over the holidays may spend a bit more time exercising to counteract their over-eating. But in eating disorders, people - whether they have binged or not - may use vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or enemas to purge their food, or use fasting or excessive exercise to counteract their calorie intake.

  • Eating Nonnutritive Substances

Many people have thoughtlessly chewed the end of a pencil or mouthed a toothpick or a blade of grass. But people with pica (the name for the one eating disorder involving nonnutritive substances) replace the consumption of food on a long-term basis with the ingestion of substances such as dirt, paint chips, sand, pebbles, hair, feces, laundry starch, plastic, pencil erasers, paper, chalk, wood, plaster, string, and cigarette butts, for example. In addition to being non-nutritive, eating these substances can introduce poisons, bacteria, or parasites to the body and cause blockages or tears in the intestinal tract.

  • Regurgitating Food and Rechewing It

Many people have accidentally burped a bit of digested food. But in the eating disorder called rumination (the name for regurgitating and rechewing partially digested food), a person who had previously eaten normally regularly brings up his or her food.

The Other Articles

Three of the other articles in this group - Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) - focus on specific eating disorders defined or mentioned by the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV). It must be emphasized that new research has suggested that the majority of eating disorders do not fit one of the these three definitions. If you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, it is essential that you seek professional help, even if the definitions do not quite fit.

Another article addresses what is known about Causes, Related Issues, and Effects, although experts are quick to point out that eating disorders are not yet fully understood. What does seem to be emerging is that eating disorders, far from being a purely psychological problem or the fruit of vanity, include biological, genetic, and social, as well as psychological components.

The sixth article addresses Preventing Eating Disorders, but again, as researchers point out, without a clear understanding of causes, there is not always a great deal to be said about prevention.

It can be assumed that more details will emerge as greater understanding of eating disorders is achieved.

The seventh article presents Eating Disorder Statistics and Facts about eating disorders to the extent that this fairly new field has yielded evidence. The eighth article addresses Treatment for Eating Disorders, which tends to be highly particularized to the particular case, and the final article lays out the Warning Signs of Eating Disorders, another vexed area since people with eating disorders are masters of hiding their condition.



Related Article: Eating Disorder Statistics >>