Eating Disorders: The Ultimate Online Resource Guide

Eating disorders describe a group of conditions that embody abnormal eating habits that revolve around insufficient or excessive food consumption, which will eventually lead to the deterioration of the individual's physical and mental faculties. Eating disorders increase world-wide among men and women; however, women in the Western world have the highest potential of developing one of these debilitating eating disorders. Each individual has a reason for choosing to undertake a drastic eating regimen with more evidence suggesting medical and social conditions. For instance, ADHD sufferers have a higher chance of developing an eating disorder than non-sufferers. One study revealed that foster girls have a higher development rate of bulimia nervosa. Peer pressure and the idealization of the perfect body as portrayed in the media also plays a role. Despite these external circumstances, research has shown that genetics may play an underlying role into the development of eating disorders. The cost of eating disorders can be severe, including neurological and biological ailments, which may eventually lead to death if not properly treated.

Biological Causes:

Geneticists have concluded through numerous studies that reveal probable genetic predisposition toward eating disorders through a concept known as Mendelian inheritance. Epigeneticists also suggest that environmental effects alter gene expression. In other words, dopaminergic neurotransmission has played a role in various eating disorders due to these epigenetic factors. Biochemists believe that the deregulation of the HPA axes leads to the development of certain eating disorders. Irregularities in the manufacture and distribution of neurotransmitters, hormones, neuropeptides, and amino acids elevate levels found in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Other studies suggest lesions to the right frontal lobe or temporal lobe can cause obsessive eating disorder symptoms. Tumors, brain calcification, and obstetrics complications have all had conclusive evidence to show direct influence in eating disorder development.

Psychological Causes:

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), eating disorders have an Axis I classification. Other psychological issues may also play a role in the development of eating disorders, including Axis I and Axis II classifications. Research has been unsuccessful in establishing a connection between personality disorders and eating disorders. People afflicted with eating disorders may also have a preexisting condition or co-morbid disorder, such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and avoidance personality disorder.

Social and Environmental Causes

Eating disorder sufferers may have had problems in their personal life to introduce extremist dietary regimens. For instance, research has shown that child maltreatment, which encompasses physical, verbal and sexual abuse, has yielded the largest percentage of psychiatric disorders. Abused children might find comfort in controlling their eating habits, or they came from a neglectful environment that served unhealthy or insufficient food proportions. Abuse can literally change the neurological and chemical reactions in the brain. Social isolation or exclusion has been shown to deteriorate an individual's well-being. The socially isolated have a higher mortality rate than those who have well-established relationships. Social isolation can increase stress, depression, and anxiety. The same triggers and stressors for those socially isolated have also been linked with binge eating. Patriarchal and matriarchal influence has also been shown to lead to the development of eating disorders. Parental eating patterns can stick with children as they age, which can contribute to the development of severe eating disorders. Parental pressure may also cause kids to overeat, and this may lead to gaining weight. Likewise, a peer pressure will cause children who are overweight to purge the food consumed in order to curtail the embarrassment that accompanies a society overly focused on physical appearance. This combination will lead to an eating disorder development in order to please the family, friends, and essentially themselves by conforming to the cultural image of perfection.

The Various Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa involves an extremist dietary regimen whereby persons inflicted with this eating disorder simply refuse to consume food in an effort to lose weight. Persons with this disorder will often find themselves severely underweight because of an intense fear of appearing fat. Restriction of food intake, excessive exercising, and other methods are employed to accomplish the desired self-image.

Bulimia Nervosa:

Bulimia nervosa is characterized as an eating disorder whereby persons binge and purge previously consumed food. Persons may eat a lot of food at once and then vomit, swallow laxatives or over-exercise in order to meet the imagined self-image.

Binge Eating:

Binge eating consists of the innate urge to binge eat large quantities of food in short periods of time. Persons inflicted with this eating disorder may feel a compulsiveness to eat large quantities of food over short periods time, lack self-control over their eating habits, encounter feelings of shame and disgust over their eating habits, and may overeat while not hungry or in secret.


Overeating embodies the uncontrollable need to eat larger portions of food, which may induce feelings of guilt and shame. Overeating falls outside of bulimia nervosa and binge eating because not everybody with the disorder enacts those extremes. Overeating will normally produce weight gain; however, it does not mean every person who overeats ends up obese.

Night Eating Syndrome:

Night eating syndrome (NES) consists of an ongoing late-night binge eating. Dr. Albert Stunkard first coined the medical term ascribed to late-night binge eaters, and currently awaits inclusion into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Clinical studies including questionnaires and isolated research has yielded minimum concrete results. Night eating syndrome affects about one to two percent of the population.

Orthorexia Nervosa:

Orthorexia nervosa describes people who have developed a fixation with eating healthy food; however, the medical establishment does not recognize this as a legitimate eating disorder. Some suggest that persons with this disorder will eventually lead themselves to severe malnutrition and even death. Additionally, persons with orthorexia nervosa may develop low self-esteem because of an unsuccessful aversion to eating "forbidden" foods.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

Eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) involves abnormal eating patterns. The DSM-IV-TR characterizes EDNOS as categorical eating disorders that do not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder. In other words, persons that display part of the eating disorder symptoms found in other predominant specific eating disorders fit into this category.

Eating Disorder Treatment:


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