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The term eating disorders refers to a variety of disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. The common feature of all eating disorders is abnormal eating behaviors. Eating disorders are serious mental health problems and can be life threatening due to significant medical complications. Treatment for eating disorders may include a combination of individual therapy, family therapy, behavior modification, medication, and nutritional rehabilitation.
Anorexia nervosa, a form of self-starvation, is characterized by a distorted body image that leads to restricted eating and other behavior that prevents a person from gaining weight. The majority of those affected are females (90-95%), although these statistics are changing as males are now more frequently affected. Initially identified in upper- and middle-class families, anorexia is now known to be found in all socioeconomic groups and a variety of ethnic and racial groups.
Bulimia is characterized by uncontrolled episodes of overeating, called bingeing, followed by purging with methods such as vomiting or misuse of laxatives. Bingeing is eating much larger amounts of food than you would normally eat in a short period of time, usually less than 2 hours. The binge-purge cycles can happen from many times a day to several times a week. Bulimia most often affects females and starts during the teenage years, but it can also affect males. Other illnesses, such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders are common in people with bulimia.
Binge eating disorder is an illness that involves eating, in a specific period of time. More food is eaten than others eat in the same amount of time, under the same circumstances. It differs from bulimia. Its sufferers do not purge their bodies of the excess food via vomiting, laxative abuse, or diuretic abuse. Binge eating disorder is found in about 1% to 2% of the general population and is seen more often in women than men.
You may find the following organizations useful for more information on eating disorders:
McLean Hospital is at the forefront of eating disorder treatment for young women.
Klarman Eating Disorders Center
Founded with the generous support of the Klarman Family Foundation, the program provides state of the art treatment for young women ages 16 to 26. Our residential and partial hospital program specializes in the treatment of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Recognizing that each young woman has a distinct set of issues that contribute to her eating disorder, we also understand that many also struggle with co-occurring mental health problems such as substance abuse, depression, mood and anxiety disorders, as well as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.