Eating disorders involve self-critical, negative thoughts and feelings about body weight and food, and eating habits that disrupt normal body function and daily activities. Eating disorders can happen in males or females. Anorexia Nervosa is extreme weight loss and a fear of weight gain. Warning signs include dramatic weight loss, preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams or dieting, excessive or obsessive exercise, and frequent comments about feeling overweight despite extreme weight loss.
Anorexia Nervosa starves the body of essential nutrients, which forces the body to slow down its processes to conserve energy. This can result in serious medical consequences including muscle loss and weakness, low blood pressure, a risk for heart failure, reduction of bone density, severe dehydration, fainting, fatigue, hair loss, and dry skin.
Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimics eat large amounts of food and then vomit or take excessive amounts of laxatives to lose weight. Warning signs include evidence of binge-eating or vomiting (purging), excessive or obsessive exercise, and ritual behavior that accompanies binging and purging sessions.
Bulimia Nervosa can affect the entire digestive system and lead to chemical imbalances that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Some possible health consequences include irregular heartbeat and possible heart failure, inflammation and rupture of the esophagus, tooth decay and staining, chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation, and ulcers.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is an intense preoccupation with a perceived defect in one's appearance.
Muscle Dysmorphia is a preoccupation with the idea that one’s body is not sufficiently lean and muscular. Warning signs include working out and weight-lifting to the point where school, social life, and family life are pushed aside. Boys are most susceptible to muscle dysmorphia, and often in adolescents it leads to such dangerous behavior as steroid use.
Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect a person's emotional and physical health. They are not just a "fad" or a "phase." They are real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships. People struggling with eating disorders need to seek professional help. The earlier a person seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.