Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are medical and psychological problems. They often have psychological or emotional causes. Depression, obsession with food, and a distorted body image are common in patients. Over time, eating disorders can damage your body.

The most common eating disorders are:

  • Bulimia Nervosa. This is when a person eats large amounts of food and cannot stop (binge eating). This is often followed by vomiting, excessive exercise, or taking laxatives (purging). This is done to get rid of the calories eaten. Bulimia may start as a way to control weight. Later, it may be caused by stress or an emotional crisis.

  • Anorexia Nervosa. This is when a person has an extremely low body weight from severe dieting, compulsive exercising, or both. Losing weight or preventing weight gain becomes an obsession. It is often used as a way to cope with emotional problems.

  • Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). This diagnosis is used for patients who have some of the symptoms of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. However, they do not have all the criteria to diagnose a specific disorder.

These disorders can lead to serious medical problems. These may include:

  • Extreme malnutrition.

  • Hormone imbalance.

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

  • Organ damage.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will do a complete physical exam. A psychological evaluation is also needed. This will include questions about your eating habits and self-image. Blood and urine tests may also be done.

TREATMENT

Treatment includes:

  • Counseling.

  • Proper nutrition.

  • Proper exercise.

  • Sometimes, medicine.

  • Hospital care in extreme cases.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Learn about your eating disorder.

  • Identify situations that cause the urge to overeat or diet.

  • Develop a plan when you have urges to overeat or diet.

  • Learn who can support you when you need to talk.

  • Resist weighing yourself or checking yourself in the mirror often.

  • Follow your caregiver's meal and exercise plan.

  • Keep all follow-up referrals and appointments. This is very important.

  • Get regular dental care every 6 months.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a rapid weight loss or gain.

  • You cause yourself to vomit after eating.

  • You abuse stimulants or diet aids.

  • You have compulsive exercise habits.

  • You have an irregular heartbeat (pulse).

  • You have a constant fear of gaining weight.

  • You take laxatives after eating.

  • You have compulsive eating or dieting habits.

  • You have irregular menstrual periods.

  • You lose your menstrual periods.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have blood or brown flecks in your vomit. This may look like coffee grounds.

  • You have bright red or black, tarry stools.

  • You have chest pain or pressure.

  • You have difficulty breathing.

  • You do not urinate every 8 hours.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness: www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: www.anad.org

National Eating Disorders Association: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

Eating Disorders Anonymous: www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org

Eating Disorders Resource Center: www.edrcsv.org