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What Are Eating Disorders Eating disorders are devastating behavioral maladies brought on by a complex interplay of factors which may include emotional and personality disorders family pressures a possible genetic or biologic susceptibility and a culture in which there is excess of food and an obsession with thinness Eating disorders are generally categorized as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa Bulimia nervosa which is more common describes a cycle of bingeing and purging Anorexia nervosa is a state of starvation and emaciation which can be accomplished by severe dieting or by purging A third new category binge or compulsive overeating without purging is not discussed here but can be found in the Well-Connected report on Obesity Bulimia Nervosa Bulimia nervosa usually begins early in adolescence when young women attempt restrictive diets fail and react by binge eating In response to the binges patients purge by taking laxatives diet pills drugs to reduce fluids or they persuade vomiting Patients may also revert to severe dieting which cycles back to bingeing if the patient does not go on to become anorexic The eating binges average about 1000 calories but can be as high as 20000 calories or as low as 100 Patients diagnosed with bulimia average about 14 episodes per week In general people with bulimia have a normal to high-normal body weight but it may fluctuate by more than 10 pounds because of the binge-purge cycle Anorexia Nervosa People with anorexia nervosa become emaciated to the point of actual starvation losing at least 15 to as much as 60 of normal body weight The primary motivations for their refusal to eat are an overwhelming fear of being overweight along with a distorted image of their own body Even when they become emaciated women with anorexia are often still convinced they are overweight Food becomes the enemy one researcher describes anorexia as weight phobia Half of these patients reduce weight by severely restricting their diets
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