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Disordered Eating

In a society that discriminates against people, particularly women, who do not look slender, many people find they cannot – or think they cannot – meet society's standards through normal, healthy eating habits and often fall victim to eating disorders.  Concerned you might have an eating disorder?  Click here to take a fast, free, confidential screening.

Types of eating disorders
There are two common types of eating disorders: 

Who it affects
While eating disorders affect people of all ages and genders, the typical person with an eating disorder is a woman whose abnormal eating behavior began in her teenage years. She is most likely a perfectionist and a high achiever, concerned about her appearance and how she is perceived by others, but emotionally insecure, often frightened, and lonely. The woman with anorexia may equate being the best with being the thinnest because dieting is something she finds she can do successfully. She may do this in reaction to a fear of growing up or in rebellion against parents or other authority figures. The woman with bulimia binge-eats in response to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or anger. Feeling guilty over subsequent weight gain, she turns to purging as a way to alleviate those feelings. The cycle of binging and purging becomes a part of her daily life and she may binge just so she can purge. This cycle continues until she recognizes she needs help.

Physical effects
The abnormal eating habits of someone with an eating disorder can seriously affect his or her physical health: 

Warning signs
 Any of the following may be a warning that someone is bulimic or anorexic: 

Both bulimia and anorexia can be treated with a combination of medical and psychological approaches to deal with the physical effects of abnormal eating and the underlying psychological problems that may have caused it.

What else to do
People with an eating disorder or any mental illness also face a stigma attached to these illnesses by society. This stigma causes discrimination against people with a mental illness in employment, housing, health care, and the ability to buy health insurance. By learning more about mental illness and the effectiveness of treatment, this discrimination can end, removing the stigma that acts as a barrier to successful treatment.

Adapted from information from the Missouri Advisory Council for Comprehensive Psychiatric Services.