What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating Disorders involve serious disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe
overeating, as well as feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight.

Eating disorders are not due to a failure of will or behavior; rather, they are real, treatable medical illnesses in which certain
maladaptive patterns of eating take on a life of their own. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

A third type, binge-eating disorder, has been suggested but has not yet been approved as a formal psychiatric diagnosis. Eating
disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but some reports indicate their onset can occur during childhood or later in adulthood.

Eating disorders frequently co-occur with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety
disorders. In addition, people who suffer from eating disorders can experience a wide range of physical health complications, including
serious heart conditions and kidney failure which may lead to death. Recognition of eating disorders as real and treatable diseases,
therefore, is critically important.

Females are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia
or bulimia and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder are male.

(source: NIH Publication 01-4901, 2001)

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