Eating disorders are characterized by disturbances in eating behavior. This can mean eating too much, not eating enough, or eating in an extremely unhealthy manner (such as binging or stuffing yourself over and over). Many people argue that simple overeating should be considered a disorder, but at this time it is not categorized as an eating disorder.
Severe weight loss leads to other physical and emotional complications. People who are anorexic or bulimic may experience several or all the following symptoms:
- noticeable weight loss (with distorted body image), particularly in the case of anorexia
- inconspicuous binge eating (feeling shame or guilt) followed by purging, in the case of bulimia
- throat irritation due to repeated vomiting
- growth of fine body hair
- excessive constipation
- swollen glands
- severe dehydration
- depression and mood swings
- menstrual irregularities
- tooth loss/decay
- risk of heart irregularities
Living life with anorexia or bulimia can be a devastating experience, and without treatment, anorexia can be life-threatening. Also, after years of secret bingeing and purging, people with bulimia can develop serious gastro-intestinal disorders and other physical ailments than can threaten life. The denial of problems and thinking or feeling that 'nothing is wrong' are often part of the illness. Eating disorders can be overcome.
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