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Beyond sustenance and nutrition, eating provides opportunities to reunite with friends and family. It has even been found that food preparation

relieve stress

and provide other mental health benefits. But for millions of people in the United States, these common activities can lead to stress and unhealthy behaviors that stem from misconceptions about their bodies.

Eating disorders are

serious diseases

which can have mental and physical consequences. It is common for an eating disorder to develop when a person develops an unhealthy preoccupation with their weight. The resulting disordered eating habits can lead to a cycle of physical and emotional health issues. The body’s inability to get the right nutrition harms the heart, digestive system, bones and teeth. In severe cases, eating disorders can lead to significant long-term health problems.

the

the three most common eating disorders

are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. If you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms of these conditions, it is important to seek professional help.

Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa

occurs when people eat very little, to the point of starvation. Anorexics often consider themselves to be overweight despite having abnormally low body weight. The disorder may be accompanied by intense and excessive exercise and an extreme fear of gaining weight. Anorexic behaviors can lead to malnutrition and a number of serious health problems ranging from anemia to bone loss. In severe cases, death can occur due to heart problems or an imbalance of minerals in the body.

Feeding frenzy

Eating too much can be as unhealthy as starving. those with

binge eating disorder

eat large amounts of food over a short period of time, including when they are already full. People with this disorder may eat in secret and until they feel uncomfortable, often resulting in feelings of shame. Binge-eaters can have trouble controlling their weight, and if they aren’t able to lose weight while dieting, binge-eaters can turn into bulimia.

Bulimia

those with

bulimia nervosa

have the same symptoms and behaviors as binge-eaters, but try to control their weight after eating by forcing themselves to vomit or using laxatives, enemas, or weight-loss supplements. They may also fast and exercise excessively to compensate for a binge eating episode.

Other eating disorders

Although anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia are the most common eating disorders, people may have other disorders, such as regurgitation of food (called

rumination disorder
) Where

avoidant restrictive food intake disorder
which is similar to anorexia but does not involve negative perceptions of body image.

If you think you have an eating disorder, it’s

important to seek help immediately
. Start by having a conversation with someone you trust. And if you’re on the other side of this conversation, be ready to listen. If you see any warning signs or symptoms in a child, friend, or loved one that potentially indicate a problem, start a conversation about it.

Primary care providers can also be helpful in identifying the warning signs of an eating disorder and referring patients to medical and mental health professionals who can provide treatment if needed. Treatment may include counseling or a prescription to help treat the anxiety or depression that accompanies many eating disorders.

The consequences of an eating disorder can be serious, but with the right support and treatment, it is possible for those who suffer from it to regain a healthy relationship with food and eating.

The information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to replace advice provided by your own physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information contained herein to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease, or to prescribe medication. If you have, or suspect you have, a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly.