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Eating Disorders Information For Parents

Detailed overview of the types of eating disorders, signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and how to get your child started in eating disorders treatment.

The two common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. They can occur separately or together in the same person. Eating disorders most often affect young women. Less than 10% of people with eating disorders are boys and men. A person who has an eating disorder is not necessarily skinny. Some people with eating disorders are even overweight.

  • Most importantly, you should know that Eating disorders require medical attention!

What is anorexia nervosa?

To be diagnosed with anorexia, a person must:

  • Be 15% below their ideal weight
  • Have an intense fear of being fat, even though they are underweight
  • Have a distorted image of their body and denial of the problem of their being underweight
  • Have amenorrhrea (missing at least 3 periods in a row)
  • May also binge and purge

It usually affects teens, and mostly girls. An estimated 1% of white females have anorexia nervosa. It is more common among people in higher income groups, and in groups that value thinness (like athletes, ballet dancers and models). It usually starts at age 13-14 or at age17-18.

What is bulimia?

To diagnose bulimia nervosa, a person must:

  • Binge eat (eat larger amounts of food in a given period of time than most people would normally eat in similar situation)
  • Feel a lack of control during binge eating
  • Purge the excess food by making themselves vomit, fasting (not eating for 24 hours), exercising excessively (for more than an hour), or abusing diet pills, laxatives, enemas, or diuretics (water pills)
  • Binge and purge regularly over a period of time
  • Have a self-image based mostly on their body shape and weight instead of other qualities

People with bulimia may be anywhere from underweight, to normal weight, to overweight. It is estimated that as much as 3% of college-aged women have bulimia.

Detailed overview of the types of eating disorders, signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and how to get your child started in eating disorders treatment.What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is diagnosed when a person:

  • Continues to binge eat over time (eating larger amounts of food in a given period of time than most people would normally eat in similar situation)
  • Feels a lack of control during binge eating
  • Eats fast during binges
  • Overeats until uncomfortable
  • Eats a lot when not hungry
  • Eats alone out of embarrassment
  • Feels disgusted with themselves, depressed or very guilty after overeating
  • Is worried about their binge eating

Binge eating disorder does not include the purging consistent with anorexia and bulimia. About 40% of obese people may have this problem.

The exact causes of eating disorders are not known for sure. Many different factors working together probably cause a person to develop an eating disorder. Dieting can lead to eating disorders, with the greatest risk to severe dieters. Around two thirds of new cases of eating disorder are in girls and women who have dieted moderately [1].


 

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Is an eating disorder dangerous to my child's health?

Many dangerous medical and psychological problems can result from eating disorders. Eating disorders can be deadly. They require medical attention!

Is it dangerous to use medications to lose weight?

The products a person might use to lose weight can be very dangerous. The regular use of diuretics (water pills), laxatives, and weight loss pills can cause a variety of life threatening problems, even if they don't cause very much weight loss. Using syrup of ipecac to cause vomiting can also lead to life threatening complications.

Last Updated: 18 November 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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