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Get the Facts on Eating Disorders

Feb. 28, 2001

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating (also known as compulsive overeating) are defined by Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Inc., as including extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.

Anorexia Nervosa

Symptoms include:

--Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age and activity level

--Intense fear of weight gain or being 'fat'

--Feeling 'fat' or overweight despite dramatic weight loss

--Loss of menstrual periods

--Extreme concern with body weight and shape

Health consequences of anorexia nervosa include risk of heart failure, bone loss, muscle loss, dehydration that can lead to kidney failure, dry hair and skin, hair loss and overall weakness.

Bulimia Nervosa

Symptoms include:

--Repeated episodes of binging and purging

--Feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness

--Purging after a binge (typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills and/or diuretics, excessive exercise or fasting)

--Frequent dieting

--Extreme concern with body weight and shape

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimia includes eating large amounts of food in short periods of time, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse or over-exercising.

Health consequences of bulimia nervosa include possible heart failure, potential gastric rupture during binging, possible rupture of the esophagus from vomiting, tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during vomiting, chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation from laxative abuse, peptic ulcers and pancreatitis.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder is characterized primarily by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full.

While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge. People who overeat compulsively may struggle with anxiety, depression or loneliness, which can contribute to their unhealthy episodes of binge eating. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate or severe obesity.

Health consequences of binge eating disorder include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, secondary diabetes and gallbladder disease.

For more information about eating disorders, the HEW display will be open through Friday in the Cub Room of the BDSC or visit the Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Web site at


Source: www.