Millions of people in the U.S., mostly women and girls, suffer from eating disorders. If you're looking for information on the subject for the first time, you may be confused by the lingo you're encountering, so let's define some common key terms.
Eating Disorder - An umbrella term for a variety of conditions characterized by abnormal eating patterns. Afflicted persons often eat too much or too little, and most sufferers are female. The causes of these disorders are not entirely understood, but a lot of information about them is available, and many treatments and rehabilitation techniques have been devised to aid sufferers.
Anorexia - Short for anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder marked by severely restricting the amount of food one eats. It most commonly affects adolescent girls. Persons with the condition, often called anorexics, have poor body image and a morbid fear of gaining weight. Anorexia can cause serious harm and even lead to death.
Bulimia - Short for bulimia nervosa, this is another eating disorder. It is marked by episodes of rapid and excessive food intake, followed by attempts to rid oneself of the calories consumed, often by forced vomiting. Like anorexia, bulimia mostly affects females, and can lead to serious health problems. Persons with bulimia frequently suffer from emotional problems that require treatment, such as depression and chronic anxiety.
Binge Eating - Consuming enormous amounts of food in a short span of time. Persons suffering from bulimia often engage in episodes of binge eating.
Self-injury - A type of compulsive behavior in which one deliberately inflicts injury on the body. Also called self-harm. Self-injury usually involves cutting the skin with sharp objects, but it can include burning and poisoning oneself.
Pica - The compulsion to eat non-food objects of no nutritional value. Pica sufferers often compulsively consume objects like soap, pencils, and dirt.
Eating disorders can slowly develop over time, especially in adolescent girls. Such disorders are psychological in nature, and occur when a person either refuses to eat or binges and purges after eating large amounts of food at a time. Meant to satisfy a psychological need and not a physical one, eating disorders usually stem from low self esteem. This devastating condition can be helped, though, through proper treatment, counseling, and other forms of help. Anorexia and bulimia are two types of eating disorders, treatable through rehabilitation and counseling within an office or clinic setting.
Although eating disorders most often afflict teenagers, they can also commonly occur in children and adults. Anorexia leads to low weight, possibly causing death in the worst cases, because patients refuse to eat. Bulimia involves binge eating and purging.
There are clinics out there that offer diet and nutrition advice, coupled with counseling services to help women, girls, and even boys and men cope with their emotions and understand why they have such a negative body image. Because eating disorders can lead to self-injury, it's important to get help right away. Family members concerned about the well being of their loved ones can ask their doctor for recommendations and referrals as to the best counselors and clinics in the area for treatment of anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders information and treatment can also be found online and in libraries, where there is a wealth of information on this topic.
Organizations also exist to help people comes to terms with their weight, and make positive lifestyle changes. They often provide advice on warning signs, causes, recovery solutions, rehabilitation options, and area support groups.