Three Things to Know about Disordered Eating

Experts aren't certain about the exact causes of disordered eating. But they do agree on these key points:

  1. Food itself is not the primary problem. Instead, eating patterns are symptoms of serious distress.
  2. Early detection is crucial. The sooner the person gets help, the better the chance for permanent recovery.
  3. Help is available. Team treatment, including medical and dental care, psychotherapy, nutrition education, and family counseling, provides the best results.
  • Show abnormal weight loss—as much as 15 percent or more of body weight—or a large weight loss in a short time.
  • Act hyperactive, depressed, moody, or insecure.
  • Have an intense fear of being fat.
  • See themselves as fat, wanting to lose more weight, even when they are very thin.
  • Exercise excessively and compulsively.
  • Suffer from constipation or irregular menstrual periods.
  • Develop fine, downy hair on their arms and face.
  • Complain of nausea or bloating after eating normal amounts of food.
  • Binge-eat, then purge, perhaps by vomiting or using laxatives or diuretics.

People with bulimia may:

  • Eat mainly in private.
  • Disappear after eating—often to the bathroom.
  • Show great fluctuations in weight, and may be of normal weight or be overweight.
  • Feel out of control when eating.
  • Eat enormous meals but not gain weight.
  • Feel ashamed and depressed after gorging.
  • Have swollen parotid glands. The parotid glands, near the ears, are one type of salivary glands.
  • Experience irregular menstrual periods.
  • Binge-eat, then purge.
  • Abuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Become dependent on laxatives, diuretics, emetics, or diet pills to lose weight. Emetics such as syrup of ipecac induce vomiting.
  • Develop dental problems caused by acid from vomiting. Acids eat away at tooth enamel.
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