Eating Disorders

Powerful Essays
Researchers study eating disorders to try to understand their many complexities. “Eating disorders are complicated psychiatric illnesses in which food is used to deal with unsettling emotions and difficult life issues” (Michel & Willard, 2003, p. 2). To help those with eating disorders, one must understand the causes, effects and treatments associated with the disorders. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Compulsive Overeating are three common eating disorders found in society today. “No one knows exactly what causes eating disorders. However, all socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural groups are at risk” (Matthews, 2001, p.3). Eating disorders are difficult to diagnose but can be deadly if left untreated.


The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness (n.d.) observes,

Eating disorders affect five to ten million Americans adolescent girls and women and approximately one million American boys and men. In addition, approximately 70 million individuals in the world struggle with this disorder. In a single person’s lifetime, approximately 450,000 individuals will die because of this terrifying disease. Eating disorders know no race, age, class or gender. They can happen to anyone. Eating disorders have been present in children as young as three years old and in adults as old as ninety. However, typical age of onset is anywhere from 12-18 years of age.

Eating disorders often develop in adolescence because it is a time of numerous changes including sexual, physical, and emotional ones. Rachel Bryant-Waugh and Bryan Lask (2004) conclude that with adolescent changes, weight fluctuations often occur and many individuals may not feel ready to handle the differences (p.38). The inability to deal with change during this time often leads to anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive overeating.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (2003) states, “People with anorexia starve themselves, avoid high-calorie foods and exercise constantly.” The person suffering from anorexia is abnormally sensitive about being fat or has a massive fear of becoming fat. Low self esteem and a constant need for acceptance commonly is seen in anorexics. Michel and Willard (2003) contend the most prevalent characteristic with this disorder is reduced calorie intake. The initial need to lose just a few pounds is somewhere forgotten and the cycle of the disorder takes over. Anorexic...

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Bryant-Waugh, R. & Lask, B. (2004). Eating disorders: A parent’s guide (Rev. ed.). New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Kirkpatrick, J. & Caldwell, P. (2001). Eating disorders: Everything you need to know. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books.

Levine, M. & Maine, M. (2004). Some basic facts about eating disorders. Retrieved April 28, 2005 from

Matthews, D. (Ed.). (2001). Eating disorders sourcebook (1st ed.). Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.

Michel, D. & Willard, S. (2003). When dieting becomes dangerous: A guide to understanding and treating anorexia and bulimia. New haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Missouri Department of Mental Health. (n.d.). Eating disorders. Retrieved May 1, 2005 from

Simon-Kumar, R. (2001). Eating disorders. Retrieved May 1, 2005 from http://

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. (n.d.). Eating disorders statistics. Retrieved April 28, 2005, from

The American Academy of Family Physicians. (June 2003). Anorexia nervosa. Retrieved April 18, 2005, from
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