Eating disorders are classified as mental disorders. They are defined by abnormal eating habits, which, in turn, have a negative effect over a person’s physical and, often, mental health.
Women – especially girls under 25 – are the more affected sex. In fact, anorexia and bulimia occur in women ten times more than in men.
That’s why the idealization of thinness in many WEIRD cultures (Western, Educated, Industralized, Rich, and Democratic) is often blamed as the main reason behind many eating disorders. In fact, on average, less developed countries show lower rates of eating disorders than developed ones.
However, traumatic experiences in childhood can also lead to abnormal eating habits and unhealthy weight management programs. There are some studies which claim that some eating disorders may have a genetic aspect to them as well.
There are at numerous types of eating disorders.
Anorexia nervosa – usually refered to simply as anorexia – is driven by an overwhelming desire to be thin. It is characterzied by an irrational fear of gaining weight. This triggers a severe food restriction, regular vomitting practices or excessive exercising. Anorexia sufferers think they’re fat even when they’re not.
The causes are unclear, but anorexia often begins after some life-changing event. It affects mostly young women, and especially dancers. Almost 3 million people suffer from anorexia worldwide. And even though it is treatable, some 600 died from it in 2015.
Bulimia nervosa – or just bulimia – is a combination of binge eating and purging habits. Sufferers from bulimia often have a normal weight and are irrationaly afraid of becoming obese. So, they take laxatives or force themselves to vomit after eating large amounts of food in a short period of time. They often suffer from depression and can even commit suicide.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is sometimes considered a milder form of bulimia. In fact, it is similar to bulimia. However, although it is characterized by compulsive overeating, it doesn’t include purging episodes. That’s why, nowadays, it is considered an eating disorder in its own right – and maybe even the most prevalent one.
EDNOS is short for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. And it’s any eating disorder which doesn’t fall into one of the three above categories.
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