14. Eating Disorders


Due to cultural ideals of feminine beauty, young women feel a strong desire to be thinner than their bodies naturally tend to be. As a result, they change their eating patterns and they may develop eating disorders. The most common eating disordered are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. Both eating disorders are more common among young adults than at any other age.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious psychological and physiological disorders. Anorexia Nervosa has the following characteristics:

  • The anorexic restricted eating to the point of emaciation.
  • The anorexic may exercise constantly and take laxatives or diuretics to lose weight.
  • The most common ages of onset are 11 and 18, the beginning and ending of adolescence.
  • The disorder is mostly diagnosed in the upper middle class. However, both rich and poor can develop the disorder.
  • Even though anorexics are extremely thin and underweight, most insist that they are not hungry or thin.
  • With psychological help about 1/3 of all anorexics get better. About 20% die of the disorder.
  • Approximately 60% of all anorexics also develop bulimia.

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is binge-eating followed by self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives.

Bulimia has the following characteristics:

  • The disorder usually begins in late adolescence and early adulthood.
  • It is not easily recognized by others because bulimics may be of normal weight or a little overweight.
  • Bulimics are aware of the problem and try to keep it a secret.
  • Bulimics may become depressed, guilty, and disgusted with their binge-purge cycles. Yet they will not stop the behavior.

The Risks of Anorexia Nervosa & Bulimia

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Loss of approximately 30% or more of body weight leading to emaciation.
  • Irregular or complete loss of menstrual period.
  • Dry skin
  • Hair Loss
  • Growth of fine body hair
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Death


  • Abdominal pain due to overeating
  • Heart and kidney problems
  • Excessive constipation
  • Digestive problems
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • A tear in the esophagus
  • Diarrhea
  • Feelings of depression, guilty, self-disgust and loss of control
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Frequent weight fluctuation

Ways to Help

Talk openly and freely and ask direct questions about the person’s eating patterns.

Listen to what is said and treat it seriously. Do not add to the person’s guilt by nagging about eating/not eating or gossiping about the person among your friends.

Encourage the person to seek professional help.