Eating Disorder Awareness - Facts

Do you know the difference in symptoms between eating disorders? How about the difference in prevalence between men and women? Take a look at our fact-files for some of the more common eating disorders below to learn more. 

Anorexia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa
Binge Eating Disorder

Anorexia Nervosa(Back to top)

Diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa include weight loss or failure to gain weight (with weight less than 85% of what would be expected for height, age, and developmental trajectory), intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat despite a low body weight, inaccurate perception of weight and shape, an undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation or a denial of the seriousness of the illness, and amenorrhea in postmenarcheal females (APA, 2000).
Key Symptoms

+ Yellowish skin (hypercarotenemia)
+ Lanugo (fine, downy hair)
+ Hypersensitivity to cold
+ Hypotension (low blood pressure), bradycardia (slow heart rate) and other cardiovascular problems. Purging behaviors may cause enlargement of salivary glands and erosion of dental enamel.
+ Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances from chronic purging may lead to serum potassium depletion and consequent hypokalemia (insufficient potassium in the blood), which increases risk of renal failure and cardiac arrhythmia.
+ Osteopenia may also result from malnutrition and decreased estrogen secretion.

0.9%–2.0% of girls and women
0.1%–0.3% of boys and men
50%–70% will recover, 20% will show improvement but will exhibit residual symptoms, and 10%–20% will develop a chronic course

Bulimia Nervosa(Back to top)

Marked by recurrent episodes (at least twice weekly for 3 months) of consumption of unusually large amounts of food, coupled with a sense of the eating being out of control, recurrent (at least twice weekly for 3 months) compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain (e.g., vomiting, laxative/diuretic abuse, fasting, or excessive exercise), and undue influence of weight and shape on self-evaluation (APA, 2000).
Key Symptoms

+ Secrecy about the behaviour due to shame and guilt.
+ Fatigue, headaches, enlarge salivary glands from recurrent vomiting, and erosion of dental enamel and dentin from gastric fluids.
+ Laxative abuse leading to dependence.
+ Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances may lead to serum potassium depletion and consequent hypokalemia (insufficient potassium in the blood).
+ Laxative withdrawl can cause lasting colon damage.

1.1%-4.6% of girls and women
0.1%–0.5% of boys and men
Bulimia Nervosa typically shows a chronic course characterized by periods of recovery and relapse.

Bulimia Nervosa(Back to top)

Binge eating disorder is listed in the DSM-IV (APA, 2000) as a provisional eating disorder requiring further study, an example of an EDNOS. This eating disorder involves (1) repeated episodes of uncontrollable binge eating characterized by certain features (e.g., rapid eating, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry); (2) marked distress regarding binge eating; and (3) the absence of regular compensatory behaviors (e.g., vomiting for weight control).
Key Symptoms

+ Hypertension, adverse lipoprotein profiles, diabetes mellitus, atherosclerotic cerebrovascular disease, coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, reduced lifespan, and death from all causes (Fontaine, Redden, Wang, Westfall, & Allison, 2003).
+ Independent of body weight, binge eating confers additional psychiatric and medical risks such as insomnia, specific phobias, daily smoking, alcohol use, and physical pain (Reichborn-Kjennerud, Bulik, Sullivan, Tambs, & Harris, 2004).

0.2%-3.5% of girls and women
0.9%–2.0% of boys and men
Community-recruited natural history study suggested that binge eating disorder shows a high remission rate, with nearly 50% of cases recovering by 6-month follow-up (Cachelin, Striegel-Moore, Elder, Pike, Wilfley, & Fairburn, 1999) and 80% of cases recovering by 3- to 5-year follow-up (Fairburn et al., 2000; Wilson et al., 2003).