For most people, eating is an enjoyable activity. Food provides a way to nourish and care for one's body and health, and eating often involves spending time with friends and family. For people with eating disorders, however, food can lose its healthful and enjoyable aspects. Both physical and emotional health may suffer and eating may become an experience that involves considerable emotional pain and struggle.
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa affect millions of Americans, both male and female, with results that can be devastating. While they affect individuals of all ages, they most commonly begin in adolescence. Eating disorders are of great concern for a number of reasons. They can cause a variety of serious medical complications and, if left untreated, can even be fatal. They often impair an individual's academic and occupational functioning.
In addition, because individuals with eating disorders tend to become increasingly self-focused and isolated as their illness progresses, eating disorders typically affect social and family relationships. Eating disorders have a profound effect on mental health and quality of life, as those who suffer from these illnesses tend to experience poor self-esteem and related problems such as anxiety or depression.
Anorexia nervosa – a disorder characterized by self-starvation, dissatisfaction with the self, and an intense fear of fat
– individuals typically cycle between episodes of secretive binge eating and various methods of attempting to purge the body of the food they have consumed, including self-induced vomiting, excessive physical exercise, or the abuse of laxatives and other drugs