Eating Disorders

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • In this article:


    • The Link Between Anxiety and Eating Disorders
    • Types of Eating Disorders
    • Anorexia Nervosa
    • Bulimia Nervosa
    • Binge Eating

    Do you know someone, maybe a family member or a friend, who has an eating disorder? If so, you are certainly not alone. Statistics show that one half of all Americans do know someone with some type of eating disorder, and, 95 percent of Americans with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of individuals with an eating disorder will die within 10 years of developing the illness. [1]


    Millions of people, mostly consisting of young girls, fight some type of eating disorder each year. Some statistics indicate that over 10 million females and another 1 million males struggle each year because of preoccupation with food. [2]

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    The Link Between Anxiety and Eating Disorders


    Anxiety is a common coexisting condition with eating disorders. Research has shown, however, that anxiety disorders often occur first in individuals with eating disorders and may actually be a warning sign of a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. One study [Kaye, 2004] showed that two-thirds of  those with eating disorders had an anxiety disorder at some  time in their life. Most of those people had suffered from anxiety prior to developing an eating disorder.

    The lead researcher in this study, Walter Kaye, speculated that eating disorders may be one way of managing the anxiety and he encouraged early treatment of anxiety disorders as one way of reducing or preventing eating disorders. [3]

    Different eating disorders, however, are associated with different anxiety disorders.


    Anorexia nervosa is most commonly associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. Bulimia nervosa is more common in those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


    Types of Eating Disorders


    Eating disorder are grouped into three categories:

    • Anorexia nervosa
    • Bulimia nervosa
    • Eating disorders not otherwise specified - Binge eating

    Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an "a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight." [4] Despite being unusually thin, malnourished or consistently hungry, people with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight and fat. Weight control becomes an obsession, they may weigh themselves several times per day and eat only extremely small portions of certain foods.


    Other physical problems can result as a result of chronic anorexia nervosa:

    • Cardiovascular problems, low blood pressure, slowed pulse
    • Brittle hair and nails
    • Dry or yellowish skin
    • Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
    • Anemia
    • Muscle weaknesses
    • Constipation
    • Lowering of internal body temperature
    • Lethargy

    Treatment for anorexia nervosa initially requires getting the person to a healthy weight. Some medications, such as antidepressants, can sometimes help, especially if there are underlying psychiatric conditions, such as depression or anxiety. In addition, individual and family therapy can be effective. Usually, a combination of medical attention and therapy is used.


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    Sufferers of bulimia nervosa frequently binge eat, eating large quantities of food and then either purging the food through vomiting or using laxatives, fasting or excessively exercising. This cycle can reoccur over and over, sometimes several times per week. People with bulimia nervosa also fear gaining weight and are unhappy with their weight, even though them may be underweight.

    Some of the other physical problems that can occur with bulimia nervosa are:

    • Chronic sore throat
    • Swollen glands
    • Decaying teeth or other oral health problems
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder
    • Intestinal problems
    • Kidney problems
    • Dehydration

    Treatment for bulimia nervosa may include counseling or psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and sometimes antidepressants.

    Binge eating is similar to bulimia nervosa in that an individual goes through periods of time in which they consume large  amounts of food and the person feels a loss of control over eating. However, unlike bulimia, the person does not purge the food and is often overweight or obese. Many times, people who binge eat feel guilt and shame over their behavior.

    Some of the other physical conditions which may result from binge eating are:

    • Cardiovascular problems
    • High blood pressure
    • Other physical illnesses associated with obesity

    Treatment for binge eating may include counseling or psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and sometimes antidepressants.




    "Anxiety and Eating: The Relationship Between Anxiety Disorders and Eating Disorders", Date Unknown, Geralyn Lederman, PhD., Anxiety Disorders Association of America

    [2]"Eating Disorder Statistics", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Eating Disorder Treatment Center

    [4]"Eating Disorders", Reviewed 2009, June 12, Author Unknown, National Institute of Mental Health

    "Factors that may Contribute to Eating Disorders", 2004, Author Unknown, National Eating Disorder Association

    [1]"Statistics: Eating Disorders and their Precursors", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, National Eating Disorder Association

    [3]"Strong Link Found Between Anxiety, Eating Disorders", 2005, Jan 7, Joan Arehart-Treichel, Psychiatric News, Vol  40, No. 1, Page 34





Published On: April 06, 2010