Eating disorders/malnutrition

background

Eating disorders are illnesses that cause a person to adopt harmful eating habits. They are most common among females, especially teenage girls. Eating disorders frequently occur along with other psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders. The poor nutrition associated with eating disorders may harm organs in the body and, in severe cases, may lead to death.
Researchers believe that multiple factors, including genetics, stress, psychological factors, environmental factors, and cultural influences, may lead to the development of an eating disorder.
Individuals can develop eating disorders at any age. Eating disorders commonly affect adolescent girls, but the number of males that suffer from these disorders is on the rise. It is important to understand that an eating disorder often occurs as a way to cope with an underlying problem, such as low self-esteem or depression.
Treatment for eating disorders must focus on more than just weight gain or weight loss. Treatment must also address the underlying cause, which often has a psychological basis. Patients may benefit from psychotherapy, nutritional education, exercise programs, and/or medications. The length of treatment varies among patients. It may last anywhere from several months to years.

Related Terms

Anorectic anorexia, anorexia nervosa, appetite suppressant, binge eating, body fat, bulimia, childhood obesity, compulsive eating, compulsive eating disorder, diuretics, ipecac, laxatives, lose weight, malnutrition, obesity, obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, orthorexia, orthorexia nervosa, reducing body fat mass, weight control, weight loss, weight reduction.

types of eating disorders

Anorexia: Anorexia nervosa is a psychological condition that typically affects adolescent girls. The condition is characterized by a fear of becoming fat or gaining weight. People suffering from anorexia will go to extreme lengths to avoid consuming food. Many anorexics lie about having already eaten, or they will often make excuses so that they can eat less or even avoid meals altogether.
There is no predetermined cause for anorexia, and the disorder has a varied onset from person to person. Most people who suffer from anorexia have low self-esteem and a negative image of themselves. Anorexia and other eating disorders often start out as a diet, but often change into an attempt to regain control of a situation. People who suffer from anorexia may feel as though their lives are out of control and that they can regain control by regulating their weight and food intake.
Anorexia is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight. This fear does not typically disappear when weight is lost. Anorexics normally have a dysmorphic (unrealistic) body image and claim to be fat when they are their skinniest. Once an anorexic begins to starve his or herself, a 15% weight loss is typical. These sufferers refuse to maintain a healthy body weight, and there is no underlying disease state or condition to blame for the drastic weight loss. In females suffering from anorexia, loss of a menstrual period for three consecutive months can also be a key to diagnosis.
Bulimia: Bulimia nervosa is a condition where the sufferer binges and purges. Binges are periods of excessive caloric intake and are not characteristic of all bulimic patients. After the patient consumes calories, they may purge or get rid of these calories by inducing vomiting or taking laxatives. There is no identifiable cause for bulimia and similar to anorexia, the time of onset varies, and patients feel an overwhelming need to control their weight.
Bulimia is a disorder in which the sufferer is aware that his or her eating pattern is abnormal. This realization is often accompanied by repeated attempts to lose weight through severely restrictive diets, binge eating, and purging that occurs at least twice weekly for three months. Patients typically fear that they will not be able to stop eating voluntarily. Bulimics commonly experience depressed moods, self-deprecating thoughts following eating binges, and the over-evaluation of self body weight and shape.
Binge-eating disorder: Binge-eating disorder is a period of overeating characterized by a period of shame and guilt. Binges are usually not accompanied by purging. People who suffer from this eating disorder are usually overweight.
There is no identifiable cause for binge-eating disorder and the onset is usually of an unknown origin. Binge-eating disorder sufferers usually eat excessively to cope with their problems and generally feel as though they cannot stop eating once they have started.
Sufferers of binge-eating disorder are aware that they have an abnormal eating pattern and are fearful that they will not be able to stop eating voluntarily. Binging typically occurs twice a week for at least three months and is accompanied by a depressed mood and self-deprecating thoughts that follow eating binges.
Compulsive eating disorder: Patients with compulsive eating disorders are unable to control how much and/or how often they eat. Patients may have difficulty stopping themselves from eating. They may eat quickly, when they are not hungry, when they are alone, or constantly throughout the day.
Orthorexia nervosa: Orthorexia is an obsession with eating proper food. The definition of proper food may vary from person to person, but it is normally food that the sufferer considers to be healthy and nutritionally beneficial to him/her. Patients with orthorexia often have exaggerated or extreme ideas about what foods are healthy. For instance, if the patient perceives sugar as unhealthy, he/she may go to extreme lengths to avoid eating any sugar at all.
Sufferers of orthorexia will spend more and more time planning what they are going to eat and imposing strict regimens on themselves that, if not followed, may result in self-punishment, guilt, or negative thoughts.

drug abuse related to eating disorders

Diuretic abuse: Diuretics are drugs that are used to lower the amount of salt and water present in the body by increasing the amount of urine that is eliminated. This process is called diuresis. When water is removed from the body, weight is lost. Therefore, people who suffer from eating disorders commonly abuse diuretics. There are five main types of diuretics: thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics, potassium-sparing diuretics, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, and osmotic diuretics.
Diuretics are commonly used to lower blood pressure. Therefore, these drugs may cause low blood pressure in patients who have normal blood pressure and eating disorders. Diuretics are not meant to be weight loss tools and can cause serious side effects, including, but not limited to, increased uric acid levels and decreased levels of potassium (hypokalemia). Hypokalemia is perhaps the most serious side effect because it can cause headaches, dizziness, irregular heartbeats, and muscle paralysis.
Ipecac abuse: Ipecac is a medication that induces vomiting. Ipecac abusers use this product to purge after eating.
Ipecac syrup is meant for use only in the case of an accidental ingestion of a poisonous non-corrosive substance. Ipecac causes severe vomiting and can cause a variety of short and long-term side effects. Short-term side effects may include dizziness, nausea, or stomach cramps. If ipecac is used frequently, then side effects may include difficulty breathing, fast or irregular heartbeats, seizures, dehydration, high blood pressure, aspiration, and death. If ipecac does not induce vomiting or an individual overdoses, then it can cause heart problems (such as unusually fast heartbeat) and ultimately death.
Laxative abuse: Laxatives are normally used when a person has been unable to have a bowel movement for a long time. Laxative abuse occurs when a person attempts to get rid of unwanted calories, lose weight, or feel "thin" or "empty" by repeatedly misusing laxatives. Laxatives are frequently misused following an eating binge when an individual believes that the quick use of the laxative will push the food and calories through the stomach before they have the time to absorb.
There are a variety of laxatives, some more powerful than others. The types that are most dangerous for long-term use are called cathartic laxatives. These include cascara sagrada, bisacodyl, castor oil, senna, and phenolphthalein. Phenolphthalein and cascara are no longer sold as drugs, but they are available as herbal supplements. Cathartics work rapidly and can cause severe cramps and diarrhea.
Others, such as milk of magnesia and Epsom salts, work by drawing water into the colon. They are thought to be somewhat safer than cathartics, but they can still lead to dehydration and electrolyte disturbances. Laxatives commonly thought of as the safest include bulk-forming agents that contain a crushed seed called psyllium. They are fairly easy to digest, but may cause gas in some people. These medications can be dangerous in patients who have difficulty swallowing. There have been reports of suffocation due to the psyllium becoming trapped in the throat and blocking the airway.
Side effects of laxative use include severe abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, bloating, dehydration, gas, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte disturbances, and chronic constipation. Laxative abuse is very dangerous and can be life threatening. Laxative abuse upsets the balance of electrolytes and minerals in the body, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Proper levels of these electrolytes and minerals are necessary for the appropriate functioning of the nerves and organs, including the colon and heart. Additionally, laxative abuse can cause severe dehydration. When the colon is full of indigestible food residue, the nerves are stimulated to cause the colon to contract and release its contents. Laxatives cause a contraction. Since there is little food residue to take with it, the laxative takes a great deal of water with it when it evacuates the body. Severe dehydration can result and is characterized by tremors, weakness, blurry vision, fainting, kidney damage, and, in extreme cases, death. After prolonged abuse of laxatives, the body becomes dependent on the laxatives and the colon stops reacting to usual doses of laxatives and larger and larger amounts of the laxative are necessary to produce a bowel movement. Finally, laxatives can sometimes cause "lazy colon," infections of the colon, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, and liver damage.