Eating disorders are not about food, but food is what people with eating disorders abuse. The term “eating disorders” refers to anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. These syndromes are characterized by extreme disruptions in eating and intense anxiety over body weight and appearance. Sometimes these disorders can overlap.
Eating disorders are psychological disorders that have physical manifestations. In fact, severe medical complications that can sometimes even be life-threatening occur. There are behavior patterns involving more than one eating disorder; for example, binge eating alternating with periods of food restriction as seen in anorexia.
People with eating disorders often know the caloric value of foods, read food labels obsessively, and keep records of food intake, often overestimating their daily calories. Many rituals may surround eating, such as cutting foods a specific number of times or eating foods in a particular order. Secrecy and lying are frequently used to shield an eating disorder. Like eating patterns, exercising may become compulsive, with strict adherence to a particular schedule. Severe anxiety results when a schedule or pattern is disrupted.
The medical evaluation of someone with an eating disorder must be individualized.
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