Eating Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) categorizes two specific diagnoses as Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

While Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa have been traditionally associated with women and girls, both of these eating disorders are being acknowledged more and studied more in men and boys. 

Anorexia Nervosa

The identifying characteristic of Anorexia Nervosa is that the patient intentionally does not maintain a minimum normal body weight. She is afraid of gaining weight or “getting fat”, and she often exhibits a disturbing misperception of the shape and/or size of her body. Generally speaking, individuals afflicted with Anorexia Nervosa lack insight into, or may even be in denial of, the disorder.

Some of the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include, but are not limited to: 1) a fine layer of baby-like hair called lanugo; 2) thinning and/or brittle hair and nails; 3) irregular heartbeats; 4) low blood pressure; 5) low body temperature; 6) tiredness; 7) weakness and/or muscle cramps; 8) tremors; 9) lack of concentration; 10) skin may become very dry and yellowish looking; 11) amenorrhea, the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles in women and girls who are not menopausal; some women are rendered infertile due to long lasting eating disorders with no treatment. 

Bulimia Nervosa

The identifying characteristics of Bulimia Nervosa are binge eating followed by method(s) to prevent weight gain, i.e., purging, the misuse of laxatives or diuretics, or excessive exercise. Binge eating is described as a period of time, usually 2 hours or less, in which the patient consumes an amount of food that is definitely larger than most individuals would eat under similar circumstances. It is important to note that continual snacking on small amounts of food throughout the day is NOT considered to be binge eating.

Some symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa include, but are not limited to: 1) erosion of dental enamel; 2) scarring on the backs of the hands due to repeatedly pushing fingers down the throat to induce vomiting; 3) frequent complaints of sore throat and abdominal pain and many times the abdominal muscles become very well-developed due to frequent vomiting; 4) glands near the cheeks, called parotid glands, may become swollen, but this is very rare; 5) tiredness; 6) lack of concentration; 7) irregular menstrual periods.

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