Eating Disorders: A Reference Sourcebook

Eating Disorders: A Reference Sourcebook

Eating Disorders: A Reference Sourcebook

Eating Disorders: A Reference Sourcebook


Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa pose a grave danger to the health of thousands of Americans each year. This sourcebook brings together in a single volume an extensive amount of information and resources regarding the diagnosis and treatment of these potentially life-threatening conditions. This volume is a substantially updated and expanded version of Controlling Eating Disorders with Facts, Advice, and Resources (Oryx, 1992).


Although anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (compulsive overeating) share common features, each disorder is characterized by specific symptoms and signs. Although some of the symptoms of eating disorders are easily observable, others often go unnoticed. This chapter will discuss the behavioral, physical, and psychological features of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Each disorder will be examined separately to provide a complete picture of the disorder and to emphasize the similarities and differences among the disorders.


Behavioral Features

Anorexia nervosa, in its initial stages, may be difficult to distinguish from normal dieting. Like normal dieters, anorexics often avoid certain foods (e.g., fats, sweets, and breads) and reduce portions of other food groups. Unlike normal dieters, however, anorexics (usually young women) continue food restrictions after achieving a [normal] body weight. Whereas healthy dieters enjoy meals and eat what they are permitted (and sometimes more!), individuals with anorexia typically eat less than what is on the plate, perhaps no more than a few bites. Frequently, individuals with anorexia appear to be eating when, in fact, they are simply moving food around on the plate, cutting food into tiny servings, or taking small bites while chewing slowly. While normal dieters appreciate their weight loss and the positive changes in their bodies, in contrast, individuals with anorexia describe themselves as overweight and fat, even after becoming severely emaciated. When confronted with their weight loss and eating problems, anorexic individuals often deny that they are restricting and that they have a problem with food. They may become quite defensive and even hostile.

Not only do individuals with anorexia display eating behaviors distinct from normal eating or typical dieting, but they also demonstrate unusual responses to eating or to eating situations. Instead of looking forward to being with others at meals, they often find excuses to eat alone. Initially, they may isolate themselves only at mealtimes; later, they begin to withdraw from social situations more completely. Commonly, individuals with anorexia demonstrate an exaggerated interest in recipes and cooking for others. Some individuals with anorexia go to great lengths to prepare gourmet meals that they serve to others, but not to themselves. Some individuals with anorexia also deny feelings of hunger or cravings for food. Often, after eating a small meal, or hardly anything at all, individuals with anorexia become . . .

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