What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating habits taken to extremes. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Several variations on the disorders can also be encountered and are known as “eating disorders not specified” (EDNOS).
Eating disorders can develop at any stage in life, though are most common in adolescence and young adulthood. Though men and boys can develop eating disorders as well, anorexia and bulimia are most common in women and girls. An estimated 5 to 15 percent of those affected by eating disorders are male, though men may go untreated due to a stigma of eating disorders being primarily ‘female’ illnesses.
The causes of anorexia and bulimia are varied and rarely a single factor can be pinpointed in a particular person suffering from either of these illnesses. Poor self-image generated by social pressure by peers and the media are commonly cited and studied factors. Self-destructive views on eating and self-image may have been learned as a child, even unintentionally taught by the parents. Lesions on particular parts of the brain have been shown to have a link in those who develop an eating disorder. Some studies also show that eating disorders may be genetic.