Eating disorders are a set of serious conditions where a skewed perception of body image leads to a preoccupation with food. They can cause nutritional deficits and become so extreme as to be life-threatening. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

This condition is characterized by limiting food intake and self-starvation. Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Distorted body image
  • Denial of hunger signs and refusal to eat
  • Food preoccupation and calorie counting
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme exercise
  • Irritability
  • Appearing emotionless
  • Social withdrawal
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dry skin
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling cold

Bulimia Nervosa

This condition is characterized by cycles of bingeing and purging—where large quantities of food are consumed over a short time frame and then vomiting is induced to rid the body of the excess calories. Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Self-induced vomiting; relaxed gag reflex
  • Overeating to the level of pain or discomfort, often with foods high in fat or calories
  • Use of laxatives
  • Negative/distorted body image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Bathroom visits during or after meals
  • Poor condition of teeth and gums
  • Sores in mouth and throat
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Menstrual irregularities

Binge Eating Disorder

This condition is characterized by excessive eating without purging afterward. Guilt or shame over eating habits causes the person to eat more, even when he or she is not hungry. Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating faster than normal
  • Consuming food to the level of pain or discomfort
  • Eating alone or in secret
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling guilty about the quantity of food consumed