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At least 2 million female Americans have a clinically relevant eating disorder Diagnosable eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are not uncommon occurring in approximately three percent of the United States female population Many people with eating disorders do not recognize that they have a problem and never seek help Eating disorders like anorexia have traditionally been attributed to environmental cues rigid beauty standards strict homes rigorous sports and competition Segall 22 Anorexia nervosa is characterized by refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight profound fear of weight gain body image disturbance and amenorrhea Bulimia nervosa involves recurrent episodes of binge eating accompanied by compensatory mechanisms and self-esteem significantly influenced by ones weight and shape Compensatory mechanisms include self-induced vomiting laxative abuse excessive exercise and fasting These disorders usually begin during adolescence with the majority of the cases developing before the age of twenty-five Dickinson 154 The media has always influenced fashion and body shape During the 1920s thin women were briefly in style but their popularity was taken over by images like Mae West Jean Harlow Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe In the 1960s model Twiggy helped to bring in the next era of thin This era has not yet ended Today the average model is five-foot-11 and weighs 117 pounds On the other hand the average North American woman is five-foot-four and weighs 140 pounds Underwood 36 Although anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the most widely recognized forms of an eating disorder other types of disorders that do not meet formal diagnostic criteria deserve consideration and professional attention For example binge eating disorder appears to be even more common than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa Although binge eating disorder involves marked distress regarding frequent binge eating no compensatory behaviors are used to counteract the effects of the binge eating Yet binge eating disorder often is associated with heightened body image concerns and obesity In addition subclinical forms
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