Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders





Eating disorders are becoming prevalent across the western world. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders (DSM) classifies these disorders as Axis 1. The identification and subsequent treatment of these disorders is a burgeoning field of study as more women become affected by these disorders. Research is increasingly centered on finding a possible genetic link to the development of these disorders as other causes are addressed. Treatment methods are geared towards addressing the psychological aspect of the disorders.

Keywords: eating, disorders

Eating Disorders


Eating disorders encompass several conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that may involve excessive or insufficient intake of food to the detriment of one’s physical and mental health. There are two main forms of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Females are primarily more affected by eating disorders as compared to males. The precise cause of these disorders is not known, but it is thought to be multifactorial. Progress made in the comprehension of the central processes of appetite has enabled the development of efficient treatment methods.

Anorexia Nervosa

This eating disorder is characterized by an obsession with one’s body weight due to a distorted perception, which causes food restriction through fasting and excessive exercise. “Genesis of it is during adolescence and early adulthood” (Hudson et al., 2007). The person suffering from this disorder consumes remarkably little “safe” food, if any to avoid weight gain. The symptoms include rapid weight loss, obsession with the fat and calorie content of food, rituals during meal times, and purging. According to the Mayo Clinic article on eating disorders, “there are complications that arise out of the patient’s body facing starvation such as amenorrhea, arrhythmia, and depression” (Mayo Clinic, 2006).

Bulimia Nervosa

It is characterized by excessive intake of food to the point of discomfort, followed by a purging ritual to remove the food from the body before it is digested. Purging may occur through using enemas laxatives or regurgitation by the use of the gag reflex. Difficulty in diagnosis occurs because bulimics are usually individuals of normal weight or slightly overweight. The signs include fixation with weight, regular visits to the bathroom during or after meal times, and depression. The American Psychiatric Association guideline (2000) states that stress placed on the body because of these rituals may give rise to chronic gastric reflux, esophagitis, and peptic ulcers.

Causes and Treatment

Eating disorders do not have a known cause as they are classified under psychological disorders. Some have been linked to genetic causes. “Twin studies on bulimia nervosa have shown a high incidence in genetics as a factor” (Hudson et al., 2007). Other environmental factors such as culture, peer pressure and parental influence have been proved to have an effect on the development of these disorders. There are certain personality traits that are dispositioned to develop eating disorders. The modes of treatment available range from self-help support groups to psychotherapy with the aid of pharmaceutical agents.


Eating disorders are one of the many mental disorders affecting mostly women in the western world. A general misconception of the body image of individuals is an underlying factor in the development of eating disorders. Limitations in the diagnosis of eating disorders may lead to inaccurate diagnosis with its carried risks. Like most psychological cases, patients need to be handled with care to avoid possible relapse after the treatment period ends. Greater awareness needs to be raised to avoid condoning the negative pressure that encourages eating disorders.


American Psychiatric Association, & American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association

Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348–58

Mayo Clinic. (2006). Eating Disorders. Accessed at