Each year millions of people in the United States are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders. More than 90 percent of those afflicted are adolescent and young adult women. It is suggested that the reason women in this age group are particularly vulnerable to eating disorders is because of their tendency to go on strict diets to achieve an "ideal" figure. Researchers have found that such stringent dieting can play a key role in triggering eating disorders.
The consequences of eating disorders can be severe - 5 percent to 20 percent of cases of anorexia nervosa leads to death from starvation, cardiac arrest, other medical complications, or suicide.
Increasing awareness of the dangers of eating disorders - sparked by medical studies and extensive media coverage of the illness - has led many people to seek help. Nevertheless, some people with eating disorders refuse to admit they have a problem and refuse treatment.
Binge eating disorder is an illness that resembles bulimia nervosa and is characterized by episodes of uncontrolled eating or bingeing. It differs from bulimia because its sufferers do not purge their bodies of the excess food via vomiting, laxative abuse, or diuretic abuse.
Individuals with binge eating disorder often:
Binge eating disorder is found in 2 to 5 percent of the general population, and is more often seen in women than men.
Medical complications that may result from binge eating disorder include, but are not limited to, the following:
People with binge eating disorder (and bulimia) typically consume huge amounts of food at one time - often junk food - to reduce stress and relieve anxiety.
To understand eating disorders, researchers have studied the neuroendocrine system, which is made up of a combination of the central nervous and hormonal systems.
The neuroendocrine system regulates multiple functions of the mind and body. It has been found that many of the following regulatory mechanisms may be, to some degree, disturbed in persons with eating disorders:
Many people with eating disorders also appear to suffer from depression, and is believed that there may be a link between these two disorders. For example:
Because eating disorders tend to run in families, and female relatives are the most often affected, genetic factors are believed to play a role in the disorders.
But, other influences, both behavioral and environmental, may also play a role. Consider these facts from the National Institute of Mental Health:
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