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The causes and consequences of eating disorders

The Scary Truth About Teen Eating Disorders: Causes, Effects, and Statistics

Print Overview Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions and your ability to function in important areas of life.

The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on your weight, body shape and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors. These behaviors can significantly impact your body's ability to get appropriate nutrition. Eating disorders can harm the heart, digestive system, bones, and teeth and mouth, and lead to other diseases. Eating disorders often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages.

With treatment, you can return to healthier eating habits and sometimes reverse serious complications caused by the eating disorder. Symptoms Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are the most common eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa Anorexia an-o-REK-see-uh nervosa — often simply called anorexia — is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape.

People with anorexia use extreme efforts to control their weight and shape, which often significantly interferes with their health and life activities.

Eating Disorder Symptoms and Effects

When you have anorexia, you excessively limit calories or use other methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, using laxatives or diet aids, or vomiting after eating. Efforts to reduce your weight, even when underweight, can cause severe health problems, sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation. Bulimia nervosa Bulimia boo-LEE-me-uh nervosa — commonly called bulimia — is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder.

Eating Disorder Symptoms, Causes and Effects

When you have bulimia, you have episodes of bingeing and purging that involve feeling a lack of control over your eating. Many people with bulimia also restrict their eating during the day, which often leads to more binge eating and purging. During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short time, and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories in an unhealthy way.

Because of guilt, shame and an intense fear of weight gain from overeating, you may force vomiting or you may exercise too much or use other methods, such as laxatives, to get rid of the calories.

If you have bulimia, you're probably preoccupied with your weight and body shape, and may judge yourself severely and harshly for your self-perceived flaws. You may be at a normal weight or even a bit overweight. Binge-eating disorder When you have binge-eating disorder, you regularly eat too much food binge and feel a lack of control over your eating.

You may eat quickly or eat more food than intended, even when you're not hungry, and you may continue eating even long after you're uncomfortably full. After a binge, you may feel guilty, disgusted or ashamed by your behavior and the amount of food eaten.

But you don't try to compensate for this behavior with the causes and consequences of eating disorders exercise or purging, as someone with bulimia or anorexia might.

Embarrassment can lead to eating alone to hide your bingeing. A new round of bingeing usually occurs at least once a week. You may be normal weight, overweight or obese.

Anorexia Symptoms and Effects

Rumination disorder Rumination disorder is repeatedly and persistently regurgitating food after eating, but it's not due to a medical condition or another eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. Food is brought back up into the mouth without nausea or gagging, and regurgitation may not be intentional. Sometimes regurgitated food is rechewed and reswallowed or spit out. The disorder may result in malnutrition if the food is spit out or if the person eats significantly less to prevent the behavior.

The occurrence of rumination disorder may be more common in infancy or in people who have an intellectual disability. Food is not avoided because of fear of gaining weight.

  • Studies indicate that women with biological siblings or parents with an eating disorder may be predisposed to develop one too;
  • These factors consist of genetic and environmental influences, including the following;
  • Behavior may appear obsessive or compulsive, and begin to consume more time;
  • As a result, they participate in extremely intense dieting behaviors, including limiting their caloric intake, which leads to malnutrition.

The disorder can result in significant weight loss or failure to gain weight in childhood, as well as nutritional deficiencies that can cause health problems.

When to see a doctor An eating disorder can be difficult to manage or overcome by yourself. Eating disorders can virtually take over your life.

If you're experiencing any of these problems, or if you think you may have an eating disorder, seek medical help.

From our Founders

Urging a loved one to seek treatment Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders may not think they need treatment. If you're worried about a loved one, urge him or her to talk to a doctor. Even if your loved one isn't ready to acknowledge having an issue with food, you can open the door by expressing concern and a desire to listen. Be alert for eating patterns the causes and consequences of eating disorders beliefs that may signal unhealthy behavior, as well as peer pressure that may trigger eating disorders.

Red flags that may indicate an eating disorder include: Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet Excessive focus on healthy eating Making own meals rather than eating what the family eats Withdrawing from normal social activities Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss Excessive exercise Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting Problems with loss of tooth enamel that may be a sign of repeated vomiting Leaving during meals to use the toilet Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits Eating in secret If you're worried that your child may have an eating disorder, contact his or her doctor to discuss your concerns.

If needed, you can get a referral to a qualified mental health professional with expertise in eating disorders, or if your insurance permits it, contact an expert directly.

  • Eating disorders in children under 12 are also a danger, however;
  • Our sample was recruited from flyers and emails distributed at local universities as well as from flyers distributed to local hospitals and clinics in a medium-sized, Midwestern U;
  • The Netflix film To the Bone dramatizes the horrifying impact of anorexia on the body and mind;
  • In response to their lack of control, they will consume large amounts of food, often very quickly;
  • More accurate information may reduce stigma regarding eating disorders, which may in turn encourage those experiencing symptoms to seek help sooner, as they may no longer fear the negative feedback from peers and family that such stigma causes.

As with other mental illnesses, there may be many causes, such as: Certain people may have genes that increase their risk of developing eating disorders. Biological factors, such as changes in brain chemicals, may play a role in eating disorders. Psychological and emotional health.

People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior and troubled relationships.

  1. Furthermore, the age at onset is concerning, as most eating disorders originate during adolescence [ 4 ]. But, less than a third had talked with a professional about their eating or weight problems.
  2. There are several patterns of anorexia signs and symptoms that eating disorders treatment specialists know to look for.
  3. There is support that, regardless of the level of internalized thin ideal, women who were warned that a thin media image was altered experienced lower body dissatisfaction in comparison to those who were not warned the image was altered [ 41 ].

Risk factors Teenage girls and young women are more likely than teenage boys and young men to have anorexia or bulimia, but males can have eating disorders, too. Although eating disorders can occur across a broad age range, they often develop in the teens and early 20s. Certain factors may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, including: Eating disorders are significantly more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings who've had an eating disorder.

Other mental health disorders.

  • Researchers found that the majority of teens with eating disorders did have contact with mental health care, school services, or general medical services;
  • The Types of Anorexia There are two main types of anorexia;
  • Eventually, disordered eating patterns will become more noticeable to others and potentially disrupt schooling, career, and relationships with family and friends;
  • Eventually, disordered eating patterns will become more noticeable to others and potentially disrupt schooling, career, and relationships with family and friends.

People with an eating disorder often have a history of an anxiety disorder, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dieting is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Starvation affects the brain and influences mood changes, rigidity in thinking, anxiety and reduction in appetite.


There is strong evidence that many of the symptoms of an eating disorder are actually symptoms of starvation.

Starvation and weight loss may change the way the brain works in vulnerable individuals, which may perpetuate restrictive eating behaviors and make it difficult to return to normal eating habits.

Whether it's heading off to college, moving, landing a new job, or a family or relationship issue, change can bring stress, which may increase your risk of an eating disorder. Complications Eating disorders cause a wide variety of complications, some of them life-threatening. The more severe or long lasting the eating disorder, the more likely you are to experience serious complications, such as: