Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one.
Eating disorders are more than just going on a diet to lose weight or trying to make sure you exercise every day. They’re extremes in eating behavior — the diet that never ends and gradually gets more restrictive, for example. Or the person who can’t go out with friends because he or she thinks it’s more important to go running to work off a piece of candy.
The most common types of eating disorder are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (usually called simply “anorexia” and “bulimia”). But other food-related disorders, like binge eating disorders, body image disorders, and food phobias, are showing up more frequently than they used to.
People with anorexia have an extreme fear of weight gain and a distorted view of their body size and shape. As a result, they can’t maintain a normal body weight. Some people with anorexia restrict their food intake by dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise. They hardly eat at all — and the small amount of food they do eat becomes an obsession.
Other people with anorexia do something called binge eating and purging, where they eat a lot of food and then try to get rid of the calories by forcing themselves to vomit, using laxatives, or exercising excessively.
Bulimia is similar to anorexia. With bulimia, a person binge eats (eats a lot of food) and then tries to compensate in extreme ways, such as forced vomiting or excessive exercise, to prevent weight gain. Over time, these steps can be dangerous.
To be diagnosed with bulimia, a person must be binging and purging regularly, at least twice a week for a couple of months. Binge eating is different from going to a party and “pigging out” on pizza, then deciding to go to the gym the next day and eat more healthfully. People with bulimia eat a large amount of food (often junk food) at once, usually in secret. The person typically feels powerless to stop the eating and can only stop once he or she is too full to eat any more. Most people with bulimia then purge by vomiting, but may also use laxatives or excessive exercise.
Although anorexia and bulimia are very similar, people with anorexia are usually very thin and underweight but those with bulimia may be a normal weight or even overweight.
Binge Eating Disorder
This eating disorder is similar to anorexia and bulimia because a person binges regularly on food (more than three times a week). But, unlike the other eating disorders, a person with binge eating disorder does not try to “compensate” by purging the food.
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder all involve unhealthy eating patterns that begin gradually and build to the point where a person feels unable to control them.
Anyone who has an Eating Disorder needs to seek help to find solutions for dealing with this issue. This could be through a school counselor or a professional therapist or a support group. Whatever the setting, the outcome should be finding healthy outlets for overwhelming feelings. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an Eating Disorder and you don’t know where to turn for help, you can always start by calling Safe2Tell™ at 1-877-542-7233 (SAFE).
For additional information on Eating Disorders, link to The Children’s Hospital website.
 The Children’s Hospital website, November 2007.