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Binge Eating

In: Psychology

Submitted By fremon7457
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To me, compulsive overeating is a disease where a person has no control over their food intake. It's a constant eating, a wanting for a more and more. You can't get enough, sort of like a junkie looking for the next high. That is my relationship with food. And I have no control. People that suffer from Compulsive Overeating have what can be labeled not only as an eating disorder, but also as an addiction and even more so as an illness. There are many reasons why people become addicted to food, many using eating as a way to cope with problems or stress in their lives. Eating can also help them conceal their emotions, to fill the emptiness that they feel inside. Food is used as a narcotic to not deal with their feelings or emotions. The tendency for people with this eating disorder is overweight because of the abnormal eating habits. People that do not suffer from the epidemic can and won’t empathize with the victims because of the common stereotypes, stereotype such as greed, gluttony or lack of disciple. Simple suggestions to a sufferer such as “Just slow down or go on a diet” are equally insulting as telling a person suffering from Anorexia to “eat something”. Not only are the words hurtful, but this disorder will negatively bleed into the body and causes health risks. A sufferer with this Compulsive Overeating disorder is prone to high blood-pressure and cholesterol, can develop kidney disease or kidney failure, arthritis, deterioration of the bones, strokes, heart attacks, and eventually death. Physically over time this disease takes a toll on the inside and out.
“Men and Women who are Compulsive Overeaters will sometimes hide behind their physical appearance, using it as a blockade against society (common in survivors of sexual abuse). They feel guilty for not being "good enough," shame for being overweight, and generally have a very low self-esteem. With a low self esteem and often constant need for love and validation he/she will turn to obsessive episodes of binging and eating as a way to forget the pain and the desire for affection. “ Women are more prone to this disorder, not because of genetics, but because of the need to acceptance, physical development, social isolation, emotional imbalance. This emotional condition leads to obesity as using depression as its main vehicle. To cope with stress, people also resort to lesser means of smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages. People can easily succumb to chain smoking and binge drinks. The nicotine in the cigarettes will cause the inevitable addiction. The alcohol will erase the pains temporarily. These are horrible beasts that regrettably are normal in today’s society and more disgustingly encouraged and often celebratory. However these addictions are not what we are here to discuss.
By no means am I implying that smoking and drinks are easier habits to give up. What I would like to emphasize is that fact that everyone has to eat eventually. Smoking and drinks alcohol are not needed in everyday life. Eating is an activity that we cannot ignore. It is less of an activity and more of a need. Many everyday things can trigger the craving of food. People eat when they are depressed. People also eat when they are celebrating. People eat when they are anxious, worried, drunk, high, and the list goes on. It essentially is friend that is always there and never lets you down. I used to think that I cannot be that kind of friend. I had no empathy for the obese because of the stereotypes and I admit that I was wrong. What we all have to realize is that not all overweight people are products of this disorder, but it is hard to tell who is and who isn’t. Either way, this person needs help because they cannot do it by themselves. Mark is a perfect example of someone in need.
Mark in the video stated that he said he’s ok when he doesn’t eat, but when he starts, he cannot stop and that’s the problem. At work, his mind is not focused on food, but he binges when he gets home and then goes straight to bed. He also said that he tries to eat late so that there is less time before he goes to bed to eat. He has tried every diet possible, but to no avail. Doctors tell him what not to each, and what to eat more of, then let him exercise on his own, but he stated that he cannot do it on his own. He doesn’t consider anything when he eats a meal. His said that his mind turns off and eats whatever is there around him. He knows that he eats too much and I ashamed to eat in front of anyone. He told the reporter that he doesn’t want to eat in front of another person because they will pass judgment on him and that he knows he is not supposed to eat that much. During the interview, Mark was eating a sandwich and confessed that he was full after the first sandwich, but continued to eat because he wants more food and purchased more food and didn’t want it to go to waste. Mark and many others cannot escape this binge eating without help.
There are more cases of binge eating disorders than anorexia. In fact, most cases of bulimia lead to obesity. Even though the signs and symptoms of eating disorders may be different, all of the eating disorder shares the same emotional causes and results. Depression.Fatigue. Muscle aches. Asthma. Irritable bowel syndrome (I think that's what it's called.) Back aches. Pain from waist bands that are too tight.Pain from bras that are too tight.Stretch marks. Weight-loss is hard and the results are not what they are expecting and they begin to give up because they see no end. The health effects are great. I can barely breathe let alone take a flight of steps without huffing. My legs and feet always hurt. I have a problem with one of my feet that I am sure is partly due to my excess weight. I have great depressions and it is not a problem that can be easily discussed with people. My self esteem is so low, it is practically non-existent, I truly disgust myself. The ramifications of being overweight are felt everyday, and in more ways than I can put down on paper in one night. If I have a pain in my chest I always fear it is a heart attack. I sometimes feel like I am going to die like this. I have tremendous back pain, aching knees and ankles, I am hot all the time and basically uncomfortable.
None of that is as bad as the inner pain, the low self-esteem, the shame, the isolation, the embarrassment. This is what I really want to work on. Couples often complaint about intimacy issues because they are afraid of what their spouse would think of their current state and in most times, try to seek help elsewhere. The constant fights about their weight don’t help the situation either. They would never really know what their spouse is going through unless they were also obese in a point in their lives. feel like such a failure in that I have no control. I feel that as long as I am fat and bingeing, there is some part of me that is not getting developed, that is not growing up. I am worried that this will define me, and I will spend the rest of my life fighting my weight and not accomplishing whatever it is I was set on this world to do. People don’t really don't know why they compulsively eat, most very conscious of what they are eating, but at the simultaneously they are unconscious. They feel guilty about what they do, but at the same time I wonder what and when they can eat next. However, when I do stop, I feel horrible. So stuffed I can barely move. If I continue on this path of distruction

Overeating in a study was deemed less as gluttony and greed, but more of a mental disorder. Eating large quantities of fats and carbohydrates releases chemicals in the brain making you feel good, the analyst even goes further and calls it “a fix”, so if a person eats large amounts of food, they actually feel better, but only when they are eating. This sensation only encourages people to continue eating, or eat again. Most people are unaware of this chemical reaction. When they are not eating depression sets in, causing the person to eat more because of the disappointment. Then this circle goes on and on for years. Researchers say that emotion is the biggest factor. Family may be another substantial factor.
I may not be the most perfect example of the cure for this disorder. Growing up in my culture people are encouraged to eat. My family even creates parties just so we can eat. Sad, I know. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but we always had food. My mother was a compulsive feeder, so inevitably, I became a compulsive eater. My cousins actually celebrated my curse as a skill and encouraged me to become a competitive eater, scouting for local food competitions. Is it sad that my favorite show is “Man VS Food”?

“Compulsive overeating is my life. I would never have imagined that there was a term to describe my hell, but now know there is after reading the description of COE, and answering yes to every symptom. There is never a time that I am not consumed with food. I'm either thinking about food, or eating. I work out regularly, and am quite busy so I appear to everyone else to be chunky rather than obese. No one has any idea how much food I eat, or how much I think about eating. I eat normally in front of people, and sneak the rest. I have driven (by myself of course) to a fast food restaurant, ordered a large cheeseburger, fries and drink, eaten the entire meat in less than 5 minutes, then driven directly to a different fast food restaurant and ordered more. I will purposefully wrap all of the containers and bags up as small as I can and stop where no one knows me and throw the "evidence" away. I even sneak food into the bathroom at home, turn the fan on so no one can hear the food wrappers rattling and binge. I eat until I feel ill. Many times if I am prevented from eating, like if someone comes over unexpectedly, I feel extremely angry and anxious.”
It's taken me almost a year to lose a little weight. I keep going though. We weigh in every week and I need that. Need to make myself accountable for what I'm doing.

I'm learning more about myself everyday. I realize that I too, do not deal well with emotions. I heard somewhere that there are only two true ones. Fear and Love. All the negative emotions that a person can have comes from fear. Whether it be anger, hurt, depression. Now, when I'm feeling angry, lonely or confused. I ask myself, "What are you afraid of?" "What are you trying to protect yourself from?"
Food was a way of avoiding these negative feelings. Now, I try and deal with them. I'm doing this on my own. I haven't joined a support group. I need to figure out who I am, not have someone trying to figure it out for me. I'm still new at it. I don't consider myself on a diet. I'm getting to know who I am. Trying not to supress it.Trying not to binge.Trying to limit my portions. Trying to decipher the mixed signals I send to myself. Trying to tell myself that food will not make the situation better. That food is an escape. That any negative feelings I have, I can deal with, once I figure out what they are and what they mean.
I guess the last thing I can say is that even when the food is gone. The feelings are still there. Maybe not immediately, but they are there. I've spent almost my whole life worrying about my weight, the control food has over me. I don't want to do it anymore. I don't want to hide behind it anymore. I want to know what's bothering me. I don't want to hide it.

from Jean...
It feels strange to be typing this out. I have never admitted my eating problems to anyone. I'm really not sure when I started overeating. I guess food has always been a comfort to me. My mother was an admitted anorexic, who lived vicariously by stuffing her entire family while she starved herself. I was always a chunky kid, but I was healthy and active, so it didn't matter then. Then my mother left us when I was eleven. I was furious. I turned to my father for comfort, but he was too lost in his own pain to offer any. So I guess that's when I turned to food. But all through high school I remained busy and active, so my weight never got too out of control. When I went to college, everything hit me. I started eating nonstop, to numb all of my anger and fear and insecurities. I worked out like a maniac but I never lost weight because I binged at least two times a week. Sometimes I starved myself. If I can get through one day without eating anything, I feel like I am on top of the world. Then the next day I mess it all up by eating everything in the house. I am alone all the time, which doesn't help. I am only aware of how much I'm eating when I am around other people. I hope living away at school next year will help. That is, if I haven't eaten myself to death by then. The truth is, I am scared to death. I have never had much control over my life, I've felt like a huge failure so many times. But that feeling always passed. I don't see this problem stopping. I have no control anymore and I don't know what to do. How can I take care of anything else in my life if all I can think of is food?? To me, overeating is about numbing myself, so I don't have to think or feel or know what's going on around me. About making myself so huge and unattractive and invisible no one will hurt me again but myself.

from Joanne...
EVERY SINGLE DAY, I say I will "get help tomorrow, stop bingeing tomorrow, stop stopstop." But it never stops. It keeps going on and I get bigger and my self esteem gets smaller and smaller. I just got done with a binge: half a box of cerel, cheese, a BIG cookie, a candy bar, grapes, some pineapple, a big oily chicken pasta salad. The thing is that I like healthy food. I would love nothing more than to eat fruits and vegetables and lean protein. but the urge to binge ins UNCONTROLLABLE. I don't know how to stop.

from Liz...
Hi, my name is Liz and I'm a compulsive binge eater. It's only 10.30 am and I've already eaten a large piece of mud cake with cream and a bar of Cadbury's Peppermint Creme. I've had this problem for years and have hid it well. I'm 29 years old and I guess I've had the problem for over 20 years. I've moved two states in less than three years and am away from my friends and family. I am unhappy in my current job, but, I have a wonderful relationship with a man who painfully found out about my binge eating and is now so in tune with me that he can tell from my moods whether I've been binging or not. Despite his love and support I continue to binge and feel even worse about it and more guilty now he's aware of my illness, of my self-hate. I hate myself, I hate my job and I hate my life. When I'm unhappy I binge, and, when I binge I lose interest in life, I lose interest in sex, I'm horrible to my husband, I tried to strangle him once (that is when he realised that I had a problem and I finally broke down and told him what I had been doing to myself). I don't believe in calorie counting. I've never been on a diet like that. I have had sporadic periods of good health, which included a very healthy diet and heaps of exercise. I have seen several natural practitioners over the years. It was only with the last one that I saw (about 8 months ago) that I divulged my eating problem to. She gave me a diet which I failed to keep to, and some homeopathic medicine to control the binge eating. That did not work, and I hardly gave the diet a go. 18 months prior I had been on a diet under the supervision of a homeopath which I stuck to. She was aware of a problem which I had with sugar, but not aware of the extent of the problem. My motivation to sticking with it was I was getting married and wanted to look healthy. I'm not obsessed with being thin. My philosophy is I want to be healthy above all else (both physically and mentally), and I see losing weight as a added bonus. I'm not obese, but I am overweight. I feel heavy and uncomfortable in my body. When I was a child we ate fairly healthy, Mum was into health food. I used to go next door and get laden with chocolate bickies and lollies. My neighbour would reward me for any good behaviour/chore/baby sitting with sweets or money to spend on sweets. I guess this is when it all started. I can see that my problem is some kind of weird reward system. But I seem to be rewarding myself for all kinds of things nowadays. It's a reward system and a punishment system in one. I can't figure it out. My friends look at me in envy as I have a wonderful, caring and loving husband. I love his company, we communicate in a brilliant manner compared with any other couple I know. And yet, here I am, so unhappy. I can't talk about my feelings with my mother or father. Never could. They can't see beyond the fact I have such a lovely husband and the amount of money we earn together. How could you not be happy with such things!!??? I recently went home to spend time with family and friends. I discovered my best friend is also a closet binge eater, and we'd kept this fact away from each other for years. My best friend! She doesn't have the perfect relationship, she, on the other hand, has the perfect job, but, is still binging, still unhappy. I know that my binging is to do with being unhappy, but how do I pull myself out of it. I can't. I'm quite a shy person and find it difficult to make friends. Although I am in a singing group which meets twice a week and I also study part-time, so I am out there, meeting people. I find the world today incredibly superficial and most people the same. I don't watch television, as I find it just drains you of life. I see people living such empty meaningless lives. They turn the tele on in the morning, they go to work, their conversation revolves around sport or want they watched on tele last night, they go home and sit in front of the tele. I, on the other hand, cook healthy and enjoy it, binge during the day on the sly, at night if my husband's out, read, play on the computer, listen to music, read, play my guitar, but it's like I'm filling in time waiting to live. Sometimes I feel I'm not living, I'm not alive, I'm dying, and I'm slowly killing myself by the crap I'm putting in my mouth. Please let it stop.

from Susan...
I overeat almost daily. I am in a loveless marriage and my mother has become very critical of my weight. These two combine to bash my self-esteem. I truly believe that I am looking to get from food that feeling of happiness that should come from my husband's love. My mood of the day doesn't affect binging. I binge when happy or sad. I try to hide it, but my husband notices when he buys a gallon of ice cream and it's gone in a couple of days and he didn't get any. I just tell him the kids ate it (lie).

from Mary...
I have good days and I have bad days! If I am alone in the house that is my worst. I can eat cookies, ice cream, cereal....etc. What ever is good and full of fat. If my husband is home I sneak food. When he goes to get the mail I stuff a couple of cookies in my mouth and when he gets back the proof is gone! I act like I have not eaten all day then suggest we go to dinner or to Dairy Queen, when really I have been pounding down the goodies all day. This has been going on for years, even before I was married. I have gone up & down in weight so much. I sometimes get to a point that I will eat and then throw it up. This is not all the time but, at least every few months I go through this, or I starve myself for days and eat very little and then throw it up and do this till I reach an OK weight or until someone says you look like you have lost some weight and then the food starts again! I can't stop these thing I do to myself. I would rather be thin than to give it up. I have tried all diets & pills (which I am sorry for taking because of my problems due to the new diet drugs!!) I have tried to get a tummy tuck, I had a breast reduction, I take pills like No Doz and things only work for so long. Then I start eating a lot again. from Eva...
It is interesting to me that I am a compulsive overeater and I have just found your pages doing research for a paper. I have tried OA, Jenny Craig, The Diet Center, Weight Watchers, starvation, purging, ... you know, run the gamut.
Anyway, maybe because I am now 38 years old I have come to see my weight as more of a physical handicap. I don't like being fat, and am now down to 335. I recognize the emotional side of being fat, have had the depression, the self loathing, and let it rule my life. I made my choices based on what I could and couldn't do because of my fat.
When I was about 30, I decided that I wasn't going to let other peoples ignorance and prejudices rob me of my life. I swam, I started school, I did whatever I wanted. It took awhile, but I even met a man who cared about me as a person, not as a body.
Somewhere this must spell the start of recovery, though I am not exactly sure where. I do know that I can recognize ignorance in other people and not accept their judgment as my definition. Very freeing. My current weightloss feels very comfortable, I think I am finally ready. I am using Redux, have had no side effects, and am very happy with the results. I find that it helps with the obsession about food, almost more of a "psych" drug than any kind of appetite suppressant I have used before. No speedy feeling. At first I kinda thought using Redux was cheating, that I hadn't dealt with the underlying emotional issues of my weight, but now I wonder if it hasn't been more an issue of brain chemistry and less of a character defect all along. Just my thoughts.
Binge Eating Disorder
Men and Women living with Binge Eating Disorder suffer a combination of symptoms similar to those of Compulsive Overeaters and Bulimia. The sufferer periodically goes on large binges, consuming an unusually large quantity of food in a short period of time (less than 2 hours) uncontrollably, eating until they are uncomfortably full. The weight of each individual is usually characterized as above average or overweight, and sufferers tend to have a more difficult time losing weight and maintaining average healthy weights. Unlike with Bulimia, they do not purge following a Binge episode.
Reasons for Binge Eating can be similar to those of Compulsive Overeating; Using Binges as a way to hide from their emotions, to fill a void they feel inside, and to cope with daily stresses and problems in their lives. Binging can be used as a way to keep people away, to subconsciously maintain an overweight appearance to cater to society's sad stigma "if I'm fat, no one will like me," as each person suffering may feel undeserving of love. As with Bulimia, Binging can also be used as self-punishment for doing "bad" things, or for feeling badly about themselves.
A person suffering with Binge Eating Disorder is at health risk for a heart attack, high blood-pressure and cholesterol, kidney disease and/or failure, arthritis and bone deterioration, and stroke.

Diagnostic Criteria
The following is considered the "text book" definition of Binge-Eating Disorder (BED) to assist doctors in making a clinical diagnosis... it is in no way representative of what a sufferer feels or experiences in living with the illness. It is important to note that you can still suffer from BED even if one of the below signs is not present. In other words, if you think you have BED, it's dangerous to read the diagnostic criteria and think "I don't have one of the symptoms, so I must not have it". 1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following: * Eating, in a discrete period of time (eg, within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances; * A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (eg, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating). 2. The binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following: * Eating much more rapidly than normal * Eating until feeling uncomfortably full * Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry * Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating * Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or feeling very guilty after overeating 3. Marked distress regarding binge eating. 4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least 2 days a week for 6 months. 5. The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (eg, purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. from Stephanie...
My first memory of my disorder was when I was 8. One night after dinner I found myself rummaging through the garbage to finish off what no one else wanted. No one was around. I was very secretive about it. But was my way of having control in my life. My parents were always critical of who I was and my body, especially.
I'd eat in secret, gorging myself with more food than necessary, way beyond the point of feeling full. Guilt, anxiety and fear would always ensue. Feelings of rage, hatred and loathing would follow; or severe depression with suicidal tendencies. You know it's ironic: I understand my disease enough to know that it all stems from issues of control (feeling out of control and abusing food to regain it). But I am so out of control when I abuse food, that it just becomes a vicious cycle day after day after day.
The next four are additional sections on some of the outside influences that may play a role in the development of Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating. These sections explore society and the media, food and eating, relationships with family, friends and other loved-ones, and the issues of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Genetics may, for some sufferers, play a role in the onset of their Eating Disorder, but it is our belief that genetics alone are not the answer. If you'd like to read more on Genetics and Biology, click here.
It is important to remember that there is not one single simple thing that causes a person to develop an Eating Disorder. It usually lies in some combination of the social, environment, and biological attributes, and/or the family dysfunction of each individual.
Self Esteem
The one trait that is obviously apparent in all sufferers of an Eating Disorder is their low self-esteem. Often they feel as though they are not good enough, that they never do anything right, that they are scrutinized by others for their appearance, and that their lives would get better if they could just lose weight. Sufferers can feel like they do not deserve to be happy, that they do not deserve good things to happen to them, and that they don't deserve to have anything but what is felt as a miserable existence. They often feel like a burden to others, trivialize their own problems and feel as though other people deserve help more than them. Each section above, while exploring the causes of an Eating Disorder, simultaneously ventures into the depths of why each person suffers from a lack of self-esteem.
It is not uncommon for Eating Disorder sufferers to be viewed by others as compassionate, warm, giving, sensitive, and intelligent people. The problem is that each person suffering can not see in themselves the beauty that others do. Their own hate from within distorts their perception of how truly wonderful they really are.
"...I tell you I love you,
The Media
Okay, so we all want to hear how Calvin Klein is the culprit and that the emaciated waif look has caused women to tale-spin into the world of Eating Disorders. While the images of child-like women has obviously contributed to an increased obsession to be thin, there's a lot more to it than that. With approximately six billion people in the world, and a mere ten million of them suffering with some type of disordered eating (.18% of the overall population -- less than a ¼ of 1%), the media obviously doesn't cause everyone to develop Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating. (Current statistics indicated that approximately one in every one hundred teenage girls may develop an Eating Disorder).
It is a lot more complex than blaming the media.
The media most certainly contributes to dieting and size discrimination but Eating Disorders are NOT Diets!
From early-on children are taught by society that their looks matter. Think of the three and four year old who is continuously praised for being "oh so cute". With an increased population of children who spend a lot of time in front of television, there are more of them coming up with a superficial sense of who they are. Images on T.V. spend countless hours telling us to lose weight, be thin and beautiful, buy more stuff because people will like us and we'll be better people for it. Programming on the tube rarely depicts men and women with "average" body-types or crappy clothes, ingraining in the back of all our minds that this is the type of life we want. Overweight characters are typically portrayed as lazy, the one with no friends, or "the bad guy", while thin women and pumped-up men are the successful, popular, sexy and powerful ones. How can we tell our children that it's what's inside that counts, when the media continuously contradicts this message?
Super models in all the popular magazines have continued to get thinner and thinner. Modeling agencies have been reported to actively pursue Anorexic models. The average woman model weighs up to 25% less than the typical woman and maintains a weight at about 15 to 20 percent below what is considered healthy for her age and height. Some models go through plastic surgery, some are "taped-up" to mold their bodies into more photogenic representations of themselves, and photos are airbrushed before going to print. By far, these body types and images are not the norm and unobtainable to the average individual, and far and wide, the constant force of these images on society makes us believe they should be. We need to remind ourselves and each other constantly (especially children) that these images are fake.
Diet advertisements are another problem. On television, in magazines and newspapers, we are continually exposed to the notion that losing weight will make us happier and it will be through "THIS diet plan". Time and time again it has been proven that, for the long-term, regimented diet plans DO NOT work, yet our society continues to buy into the idea that they do. Pop-culture's imposed definition of "the ideal body" combined with the diet industry's drive to make more money, creates a never-ending cycle of ad upon ad that try to convince us "...if you lose weight, your life will be good." The flip side is that as long as we continue to buy into their false claims by purchasing these (often dangerous) products, the more the diet industry will keep pushing their slogans at us.
From the About-Face organization: "400-600 advertisements bombard us everyday in magazines, on billboards, on tv, and in newspapers. One in eleven has a direct message about beauty, not even counting the indirect messages."
While all of these images, advertisements, and messages may be counterproductive to a good self-image, and society's overall acceptance of each person's different size and shape, they are NOT the reason so many men and women develop an Eating Disorder. These images may not help, and for those already open to the possibility of negative coping mechanisms and/or mental illness, the media may play a small contributing role -- but ultimately, if a young man or woman's life situation, environment, and/or genetics leave them open to an Eating Disorder (or alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, OCD, etc.), they will still end up in the same place regardless of television or magazines. Ultimately it's important to know that Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating are NOT about weight and food. Rather they are complex disorders where each sufferer is plagued with low self-esteem, an inability to cope with their own emotions and stress, and many underlying issues that have lead them to their disordered eating.
Barbie-type dolls have often be blamed on playing a role in the development of body-image problems and Eating Disorders. Not only do these dolls have fictionally proportioned, small body sizes, but they lean towards escalating the belief that materialistic possessions, beauty and thinness equate happiness. Barbie has more accessories available to purchase than can be believed, including Ken, her attractive boyfriend. She has an assortment of jobs including: Potty-training her sister Kelly, princess and more recently, Dentist (in which she wears a mini-skirt and has enough hair that she would choke her patients with it). While it's unreasonable to believe that every girl who has a Barbie-type doll is at risk of developing an eating disorder, there's no denying the possibility that it helps to perpetuate an ideal of materialism, beauty, and being thin as important elements to happiness in one's life. At an age where children are very impressionable and seek to be like the role models around them, it's important to emphasize that dolls of all types are pretend. If your kids want these dolls (and lots of kids do), they should learn to rely on their imagination in playing with Barbie creatively (How about driving a dump truck or fixing the car?). In general, children need to be exposed to a variety toys, and provided with well-rounded choices. Most importantly, they need to see in real-life the true role models such as doctors, teachers, women and men in history, artists, writers, and moms and dads.
Society and Culture
In addition to the media, part of the societal problems are as a result of lack of education. Girls and boys need to be aware of the changes their bodies go through during puberty and why, and as well, why they should feel proud of their bodies no matter what size or shape.
People in societal "pop-culture", whether consciously or subconsciously, perpetuate the ideal of thinness through their conversations, judgments and teasing of their peers and other family members. The association of shame with weight as women tend to not want to disclose what they weigh, or do not want to be seen in "this bathing-suit" or "that pair of shorts" contributes to the sense that they should be ashamed of their body size. The chronic passive obsession about weight within families (wife asks husband "do I look fat in this?"), and within circles of friends (first time seeing someone in a while, the comment: "you've gained/lost weight!") continues to emphasize the idea that how we look and what we weigh is of utmost importance. Many of us blame the magazines and diet ads, while we walk around guilty of the same "crimes".
A high percentage of the American culture falls into one of two categories. Couch potato or exercise freak. There is no consistent example set to our children that moderate regular exercise is good for us and essential for our health. They either see us rigorously obsessed with burning calories and fat, or neglecting our bodies through lack of activity. We also live in the age of the video game and the internet where many of our children spend countless hours in front of Nintendo or watching as their parents sit at the computer for hours on end. It is important to encourage your kids to go outside and play and to teach them about exercise. They need to know that there is such a thing as too much or too little. The best thing you can do for your children is to take walks as a family four or five days per week, because "it's good for our bodies and because it's fun".
A recent study by a popular television news program investigated the pursuit of a professional career, and how looks play a role. Two men and two women were sent out in search of jobs (one of each was considered more attractive than the other, and their looks were accentuated up or down with make-up). Both dressed well and had equal qualifications. Each time the "more attractive" man or woman, though equally well-spoken, amicable and qualified, was immediately invited back for a return interview, or hired right away. Looks and weight have continued to play a role in whether a person is hired, or is able to be promoted, especially in women. Professional women are often expected to be thin, well-dressed, and attractive. You should visit the International Size Acceptance Association about the topic of fighting size discrimination.
Specific Groups in Society
Because of society's historical role in setting what is perceived as the "standard" for the average individual, the same is true of specific groups of individuals. Listed below are additional reasons to the ones above why teens, college students, dancers and athletes are at risk.
Ballet Dancers/Dancers:
When you think of a ballet dancer or dancer you think immediately of a slender individual. In addition to the pressures of staying thin, dancers are faced with the stress of achieving perfection for performance, often with hours of exercise and rehearsals. There is also sometimes additional pressures from the instructor to maintain and/or lose weight that become unreasonable. Because of these additional factors in the life of dancers this can put them at an increased risk of developing disordered eating patterns. In 1997 a young ballerina by the name of Heidi Guenther died of fatal heart attack as the result of her Eating Disorder. She was 22.

Gymnasts and Figure Skaters:
In a desperate attempt to fit the profile and stay thin, as well as to please judges in competition, gymnasts and figure skators are at an elevated risk of developing an Eating Disorder. As with dancers, the stresses of perfection in competition contributes to hours of rigourous practice. Gymnast Christy Henrichdied from complications due to her Eating Disorder in 1994, at 22 years of age. Nadia Comaneci, Cathy Rigby and Kathy Johnson have all come forward and admitted to battling with Anorexia and Bulimia.

Teens and College Student:
Adolescence is a time of confusion when teens are often trying to discover who they are as they journey closer to adulthood. They face increased independence, life choices and new friendships and they begin to date and seek acceptance from the opposite sex and their peers... All of this while their bodies are changing and their hormones are raging! This combined with any additional problems in their family, friends or new relationships can easily put teens at a higher risk for an Eating Disorder.

College students are feeling pressures to succeed. Additional stress factors include making new friends, moving away from home for the first time, and a new sense of independence and freedom combined with confusion and fear. There is a heavier work load expected of them and late-night studying and cramming, as well as a new sense of having to be responsible for taking care of their own meals in-between it all. This is usually one of the first major turning points they face as young adults, requiring a time of adjustment that can send them into a tale-spin. It is easy to see why Eating Disorders in college students continues to be on the rise.

The environment surrounding food and eating issues in a family can play a role in the development of an Eating Disorder. It is important that kids learn to eat healthfully and that food is nothing more than an enjoyable means of energy for their bodies.
Food or Emotion?
Probably one of the biggest mistakes made with kids in the issues surrounding food is to equate food with emotion. Food is not love, pride, sadness or a friend. It is something our bodies need for fuel to keep us healthy and strong.
Too many times food is used as a reward. A child does something good, gets a good report card, does what they are told, succeeds in a sport, etc., and then immediately gets to go to MacDonalds for dinner, go out for ice-cream, or have some candy or some kind of treat. There are much better ways to reward children: Hugs and kisses and statements such as "I'm proud of you!"; taking them to a special event they want to go to (baseball game, concert, carnival, circus, movies); taking them out to buy something special related to the achievement (book, art supplies, sports equipment, computer game); spending time doing something special with them (build a model, do a puzzle, color, build with legos, play cards, read a book, make up a story). There are a plethora of other options as opposed to giving them something to eat!
Using food as comfort for a cut, bruise, bump on the head, broken arm or any other injury is another example. The same applies to emotions like sadness, loneliness and grief. Children need to be comforted with hugs, communication and validation, and spending time with them until they feel better. They need to cry when they feel hurt or sad. They need to yell when they are angry. They don't just need something to eat.
It's not uncommon for food to be used as a punishment. For example, such as with a statement like, "you cannot have anything to eat until you do what I said." Kids ask to eat because of their natural sense of hunger. Corrupting this by forcing them to unreasonably wait will destroy their ability to determine when they are really hungry.
Forcing kids to eat when they are not hungry, or feeding them when they are bored will, again, destroy their sense of hunger. This teaches them to ignore being hungry or being full. It is common for all parents to use statements like "you will not leave the table until you finish what is on your plate." Realistically, arguing about eating everything on a child's plate is ridiculous and unnecessary. Fighting over meals creates more harm than good by having a central issue focus on eating. There is nothing to fear; Children will and do eat when they are hungry.
Encouraging play and independence helps children learn to keep themselves occupied. It is good to foster activities like drawing, coloring, reading, playing with blocks and legos, playing with dolls, cars and trucks, making up stories, playing dress-up, role-play games, board games, riding bikes, playing in the dirt, Frisbee, sports, playing with a pet, playing on playgrounds and swingsets, swimming, etc. etc. Children should not rely on television for entertainment because they will more often get bored and have a false sense of hunger. Kids often learn to equate boredom with wanting to eat.
Normal Eating
In conjunction, most children need structure. It is up to parents to teach their kids that normal eating consists of three well-balanced meals a day and two healthy snacks. Meals should be around the same time every day. There should be an assortment of snacks available and children should be able to have or not have their snacks based on hunger and need. Unless your child has a diagnosed biological disorder that effects their sense of hunger or ability to control how much they eat, you should essentially let them eat as much or as little as they like.
Let your kids try and taste new foods (short of food allergies of course). Let them explore their own sense of eating and enjoying it! Start at a young age and let them have fun with it. You might be surprised at what your kids like!
Another mistake often made is to think children should not have sweets. "Junk food" in moderation is fine (as long as they brush their teeth!). Restricting sweets from their diet will only later backfire and make them want it more, especially as they approach the school age and see other children eating and enjoying candy, cookies and chips.
Because of hurried schedules and the increasing number of households where both parents work, we are often missing things from our diets. It is probably a good idea to have your children on a good one-a-day multi-vitamin (just check with your pediatrician). This is not a replacement for food, just a way to supplement some of the vitamins and minerals they may be missing from their meals and snacks.
Set an Example
In combination with all of the above, you should set a good example. Kids learn their behaviors and lifestyles from the immediate role models around them, and thinking with the logic "do what I say, not what I do" will not get you very far.
If you typically use food to comfort or reward yourself, your kids will probably do the same. If you eat when you're bored, so will your children. If you skips meals and have no consistency of schedule they will pick up these habits too. Kids who have parents who are always dieting learn to think dieting is normal. Children learn to walk and talk by watching those around them, and they will absolutely learn their eating habits by watching their parents and immediate family.
...with Parents * Children seek acceptance from their parents. They often need validation that they are doing good in their parent's eyes. If there is a lack of praise the child may feel disapproved of, thus contributing to a low self-esteem. * In some families where one parent is the stronger force of discipline, the parent taking on this role may tend to see disobedience as a direct defiance, and may often lose their patience more quickly than the other. Because of this, children sometimes get the sense very young that nothing they do is ever good enough, in that parent's eyes. This can lead to perfectionistic behavior and unhappiness with everything they do. * Obsession with weight and body image by one or both parents will lead to the same in their children. Compulsive Overeating, Anorexia, or Bulimia by one or both parents increases a child's risk for developing an Eating Disorder. * If either parent has a negative means of coping with life (Eating Disorder, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction) the child will be at an increased risk of developing a negative coping mechanism, including an Eating Disorder. * Parents who are workaholics and who have a problem meeting obligations to their children (ie., appointments with teachers, awards ceremonies, sports events etc.) often make them feel less important and unapproved of. Children in these situations may feel as though no one is there for them and may turn to other means of coping with problems. * If there is abuse (physical, emotional or sexual) by either or both parents the child will learn to blame themselves, to think that everything is their fault, that they never do anything right, and that they deserve to hate-themselves (low self-esteem). They may also feel "disgusting" and "dirty", may want to push others away and may feel a desire to be "invisible". * Divorce within the family, particularly during a child's teen years (when they are already seeking acceptance from their peers and face hormone and body changes) can make the child seek attention and acceptance from one or both parents. It can create stress and feelings of sadness and loneliness. * Lack of communication with parents, or lack of validation from parents will make a child feels as though their feelings don't matter, that what they do and feel is meaningless, and that they are not loved or accepted. * Children in environments where they are told to control their emotions (ie., don't cry, don't yell, don't get mad at me) or who are punished for expressing emotion (ie., I'll give you something to cry about) will grow up believing they must stuff their emotions inside. This leads to looking for other ways to coping with sadness, anger, depression and loneliness. * Parents who are perfectionists and/or who are particularly hard on themselves will set an example for their children to do the same. In addition, if they set unusually high expectations on themselves or their children to achieve certain levels of success, it can lead to a child being overly hard on themselves and feeling of "I'm never good enough." * If either parent suffers from an existing psychological condition (whether diagnosed or not) such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or anxiety, recent studies indicate that their child may be born with a pre-disposition to the same. This pre-disposition would increase their chances of developing a need to cope with the emotional attributes of the illness later on, thus possibly developing an Eating Disorder. Also read Associations and Addictions. * Long-term and/or severe illness in either parent can create a disrupted environment to the child. In a lot of cases it may increase the child's level of responsibility in the family. It can make them feel out of control, depressed and lonely (like they've been forgotten or their needs are unimportant). There may also be a subconscious desire to be sick themselves in order to emulate the ill parent, or in order to seek other's acceptance and attention. * Abandonment by a parent can lead a child to question their identity, if they deserve to be loved, if they are good enough, and why the estranged parent left. It can cater to a low sense of self-worth. * The death of a parent creates an extreme trauma in a child's life. They may feel angry, powerless and depressed. They may find a way to blame themselves. They may sense a need to find something in their life to give them a sense of control. A child who loses a parent is more apt to develop depression, alcoholism, drug addiction or an Eating Disorder. * If a parent commits suicide it increases the likelihood that they will develop of severe form of depression and a need to cope with it (alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorder). There is also a higher risk of the child committing suicide. * A little girl, particularly an only-child or from a family of girls, may sometimes feel as though her father wanted a boy. This can create an emotional conflict for her once she reaches puberty, at the onslaught of her developing body. An Eating Disorder can be her rebellious attempt to control her expanding hips and growing breasts. * Little girls tend to want to be the type of women their fathers would like or marry. Fathers who make comments about body-size and weight about other women, their wives and their daughters can make the child feel as though the size of her body dictates how much he will love her. It can create an obsession with her weight and a battle to seek her father's love and approval. * Being that women tend to have a higher percentage of body-image issues than men, mothers tend to influence their daughter's beliefs about being comfortable with their own bodies. A girl with a mother who has disordered eating patterns, who continuously diets or is obsessed with appearance, and who may constantly berate herself and/or her daughter about weight, will have a much higher chance of developing an Eating Disorder later on. * Girls may be influenced by mothers who seek to raise them as "good wives to a husband". Be proper, don't gain weight, keep up with your looks, never be caught dead without make-up all contribute to the belief that they only deserve love if they look their best. Mother may also lay a great deal of importance in cooking for a husband, while at the same time sending messages to not gain weight and/or don't eat too much. These can all contribute to the thought that food and/or weight equals love.
...with Siblings * A twin who is affected by feeling a need to create an identity of their own, may develop an Eating Disorder as a rebellious attempt to control how they look. In addition, if one twin has an Eating Disorder it increases the chances of the other developing one (based on mutual genetics, environment, and the influence twins have on each other.) * Siblings pick on each other. Continuous harassment involving weight and body image issues by a brother or sister may contribute to a child's development of an Eating Disorder. * Abuse (emotional, physical or sexual) by siblings can lead the child to blame themselves, to think that everything is their fault, that they never do anything right, and that they deserve to hate-themselves (low self-esteem). They may also feel "disgusting" and "dirty", may want to push others away and may feel a desire to be "invisible". * If a child feels they are "left out" amongst their siblings, or comparatively to their siblings with their parents, the will feel low self-worth and a need for acceptance. * Long-term and/or severe illness in a sibling can create a disrupted environment to the child. In a lot of cases it may increase the child's level of responsibility in the family. It can make them feel out of control, depressed and lonely (like they've been forgotten or their needs are unimportant). There may also be a subconscious desire to be sick themselves in order to get equal attention or acceptance from parents and other family members. * The death of a sibling creates an extreme trauma in a child's life. They may feel angry, powerless and depressed. They may find a way to blame themselves. They may sense a need to find something in their life to give them a sense of control. They may feel the loss of their parents as their parents attempt to deal with the loss themselves. A child who loses a brother or sister is more apt to develop depression, alcoholism, drug addiction or an Eating Disorder.
...with Peers * A child who is above average intelligence, who expresses tremendous individuality or who has a unique gift or talent may have feelings of unacceptance from peers. They may have a strong need or desire for acceptance and to fit it. There may be increased pressures placed on the child to achieve. * A child with weight problems who is continuously picked on may develop a lack of self-worth and a desire for love and acceptance. This can lead to depression and further withdrawal, and/or obsessive weight concerns and body-image issues. * A child who is continuously picked on for any one particular flaw (ie., small mole or scar on their face) may develop a lack of self-worth and a desire to be loved and accepted. This can lead to depression and withdrawal, and/or they may seek acceptance by attempting to control their weight. * Children who are shy or have a problem making friends will have a sense of loneliness. They will want to be accepted by their peers and may suffer from depression for not feeling as though they are. They may look for ways to fill a void within themselves through food. They may look for ways to seek acceptance through weight loss. * There are additional pressures to fit in during puberty and adolescence. As well, some girls will develop sooner than others and may face ridicule because of it, making them hate and want to hide the development of their bodies. Harassment by boys at this age can cater to feeling uncomfortable and having feelings of shame. * Kids participating in sports and athletic activities (such as dance or cheerleading) may feel additional pressure from their coaches and peers to achieve certain body types. This can be common in ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading, figure skating, swimming and wrestling. It is not uncommon to find peers introducing and sharing unhealthy diets and disordered eating patterns. * Groups of kids who seem to start a "diet" together may be at risk. Often times they share purging tips and ways to restrict, comparing with each other how much they didn't eat. Because they seek acceptance amongst each other and because of the unhealthy nature of diets to begin with, this obviously is behavior that can lead to the start of an Eating Disorder. Love Relationships * During the teen years it's common for kids to seek acceptance from each other. They are trying to become comfortable with their bodies and the changes they are going through. Within the dating environment it's not uncommon for teens to want to please each other with the way they look. It's common to hear girls talking about losing weight and staying thin. * Harassment between girls and boys/women and men about weight can lead to a low self-esteem and an obsession with body-image and weight. * A cheating partner can make the other feel inadequate, ugly and foolish. It can lead to depression. This can easily translate into an obsession with weight and body-image. * Emotional and physical abuse within a relationship can cut its victim down, making them feel small and to-blame. It can lead the victim to try desperately to get acceptance and approval from their abuser. They often blame themselves. * Divorce in a marriage leaves its participants back in an awkward dating scene again. Not only can the divorce itself leave a person feeling unloved and unacceptable, there may be an obsession with body-image and weight over the prospect of finding another mate. People who find themselves divorced may also feel lonely and like there is a void inside which can lead to overeating. * A woman who is date-raped may feel a need to blame herself. She may look at herself as weak and stupid. She may feel used, dirty and ashamed. This can lead to depression, anger, withdrawal and problems with self-worth, which can all lead to disordered eating. * Alcoholism within a relationship can lead to feelings of powerlessness and unhappiness. It can lead to thoughts such as "why don't I make him/her happy" and "why can't I help him/her stop." There is a sense of loss of control. * After childbirth a woman may feel at a loss over the weight she has gained during pregnancy. Her husband or boyfriend may continuously mention her weight or pick on her for it. In addition there are stresses on her to perform as a mother. She may feel her life is out of her hands and with increased focus on the baby, like she doesn't matter. the Workplace * Increased pressures to be successful in the workplace and fit the ideal "woman professional" may lend themselves to feelings of stress to lose weight or get in shape. * Pressures placed on people by society to fit the ideal professional may lend themselves to body-image problems and weight loss issues. There may be size-discrimination at a job that makes prospects for promotion seem dim without weight loss. This can lead to problems with body-image. * Comments, gossip and whispering about a person's weight will make them feel worthless and seeking acceptance. This can make the person feel depressed and alone, and can lead to body-image and weight issues. * Bosses telling employees to watch their weight or loss weight in order to keep their job, or to get a promotion can lead to feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness (this is also size-discrimination). * Sexual harassment on the job will lead its victims to self-worthless feelings, confusion, feelings of inadequacy, and powerlessness. Victims often blame themselves.

Genetics and Biology
While genetic and biological predispositions in Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating are important to explore, for each individual there may be a wide variety of reasons for developing an Eating Disorder.
A great deal of research in recent years has indicated that there may be genetic factors that contribute to the onset of an Eating Disorder. This is not to say that emotional, behavioral and environmental reasons do not play significant roles, but that for some, there may be a genetic predisposition to the development of Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating.
One study by doctors at the Maudsley Hospital in London suggested that people with Anorexia were twice as likely to have variations in the gene for serotonin receptors, part of which helps to determine appetite. Because of an overproduction of serotonin, it is possible that those with Anorexia are in a continual state of feeling acute stress -- as in the fight or flight response -- creating an overwhelming and constant sense of anxiety. (Genetic clues to eating disorders; BBC News)
Another study by Dr. Walter Kaye, of the University of Pittsburgh, examined a number of recovered Bulimia patients. They were monitored for persistent behavior disturbances and levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. His team found that, compared to people with no history of Bulimia, the recovered individuals still had abnormal serotonin levels, with overall more negative moods, and obsessions with perfectionism and exactness. The levels of the other brain chemicals, dopamine and norephinephrine, were normal in comparison. (Brain Chemicals May Cause Bulimia; BBC News)
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin (ser-oh-TOH-nin) is a neurotransmitter, a group of chemical messengers, that carry out communication in the brain and body. The messengers travel from one neuron (or nerve cell) to others that act as receivers, where they attach to a specific area called a receptor site. This union, like a key fitting into a lock, triggers signals that either allow or prevent a message to be passed on to other cells. Since the discovery of serotonin in the 1950s, researches are finding evidence that one of its roles is to mediate emotions and judgement. (Serotonin and Judgement; Society for Neuroscience)
Serotonin is involved in many behaviors such as hunger, sleep, sexual response, impulse control, aggressive behavior and anger, depression, anxiety and perception. Abnormally low levels of serotonin might be found in someone who is suicidal, who is particularly agressive towards others, or a person who is extremely depressed. High levels of serotonin may be found in a person who is in a constant state of anxiety, has a tendency to be over-exacting in completing tasks, who suffers insomnia, or who has a tendency to feel overly stimulated by their surroundings (overwhelmed).
So how might this translate for someone with an Eating Disorder?
Low levels of serotonin, which could contribute to a person's sense of depression, are in theory, increased during episodes of binging, making the person actually feel better. As theorized, binging on sweets, starches or carbohydrates would increase serotonin and produce a sense of well-being.
The exact opposite would be true in conjunction with self-starvation or restriction. If too much serotonin is present, this may create a sense of perpetual anxiety, and in theory, by reducing the intake of calories to starvation level, the result would be a calming or sense of regaining control.
In other words, those with low or high levels of serotonin may feel "driven" towards eating or not eating as they consciously or subconsciously realize it actually makes them feel better emotionally, because of a physical response in their brain.
It is very important to note that the act of restricting, and binging (with or without purging) can also lead to a disruption in serotonin levels, thus contributing to an already existing problem, or creating a completely new one to deal with. This can lead to depression and anxiety, which are known side effects of malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, both for undereaters and overeaters.
In addition to Depression and Anxiety, abnormal serotonin levels have been found in people with other mental illness, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), all of which can, for some, co-exist with an Eating Disorder. Studies also suggest that there are genetic predispositions to serotonin disruptions, that appear to run in some families.
NOT the Only Factor
While all of the genetic studies and biological predispositions may be important to understand, it is essential to realize that there are people who live with too much or too little serotonin who do not develop an Eating Disorder. It is also important to note that there are people who develop an Eating Disorder who have no corresponding predisposition. While there may be genes that play a role in the level of serotonin within our brains (for some people), the emphasis on emotional, behavioral and environmental factors cannot and should not be dismissed. For some, low or high levels of serotonin may make a person predisposed to relying on food as a way to control how they feel, but that doesn't elimate all of the non-biological possibilities.
One way to look at this is to examine a child with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), that has a parent with ADD. The family environment may be very chaotic, in part due to the way they are hard-wired, but also because of an inability to cope effectively with the ADD. These behavioral patterns, as well as a sense of instability in the environment, are as much a contribution to the way the child learns to cope, as is the genetic influence of ADD. One doctor we spoke with said, "I find that a really high percentage of the [eating disorders] clients I work with have parents with some kind of undiagnosed anxiety or compulsive behavior type. They may learn how to have these behaviors themselves simply by living in such an environment. Only when they grow up and leave the home do they even have the opportunity to see that what they learned may be dysfunctional."
As stressed above there are many thing that may play a role in the onset of an Eating Disorder; Family environments, the way a person was taught to [and how they] cope with their emotions, how they were taught to [and how they] communicate, their general sense of self-esteem, and possible issues of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Another factor may be a history of addiction to drugs or alcohol in a family, and the effect it may play both genetically and environmentally. The problems each person faces, the way they cope, the reasons for continuing to hurt or punish themselves, and the way the feel are all critical issues that cannot be tossed aside.
Keep in mind, low levels of serotonin have been discovered in some alcoholics as well, but not everyone with a low level of serotonin would become an alcoholic, stressing the point that there are other contributing factors.
Though serotonin may play a role in feeling depressed or overly anxious, it is NOT the only reason people suffer from depression or anxiety, nor the only reason they may develop an Eating Disorder. It may, for some, be an important piece to the puzzle, but isn't by itself a complete picture.
"Although no one can yet say for certain, new science is offering tantalizing clues. Doctors now compare anorexia to alcoholism and depression, potentially fatal diseases that may be set off by environmental factors such as stress or trauma, but have their roots in a complex combination of genes and brain chemistry. In other words, many kids are affected by pressure-cooker school environments and a culture of thinness promoted by magazines and music videos, but most of them don't secretly scrape their dinner into the garbage. The environment "pulls the trigger," says Cynthia Bulik, director of the eating-disorder program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But it's a child's latent vulnerabilities that 'load the gun.'" (Newsweek, December 2005, Fighting Anorexia: No One to Blame)
What Do We Do With This Information?
Keeping the big picture in mind it may be useful to be aware of how serotonin levels effect each particular person when it comes to their course of treatment. Medications such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can help to control levels of serotonin and assist patients in responding more positively to therapy and treatment... but there is no "magic pill." Each individual will ultimately respond best when they can find a therapist and treatment team that can address all issues.
Each Eating Disorder sufferer is an individual. Some may respond to medication, some may not, and some may not wish to take it at all. Some may endure "the serotonin roller coaster ride" while trying to find the healthy middle-ground in which the medication becomes effective. It is important for those in recovery, along with their doctors and therapists, to keep all of this in mind, communicate about what is going on, and to remain patient through the process.
Also read our section on other associated mental health conditions that may sometimes co-exist with an Eating Disorder.
Associated Mental Health Conditions and Addictions
Below you will find some of the psychological illnesses and addictions that can sometimes co-exist with an Eating Disorder.
In people who suffer from Eating Disorders it is not uncommon to find other associated psychological disorders that co-exist with their Anorexia, Bulimia and/or Compulsive Overeating. In some cases, their Eating Disorder is a secondary symptom to an underlying psychological disorder (such as some people who also suffer with Multiple Personality Disorder), and in other cases, the psychological disorder may be secondary to the Eating Disorder (as with some people also suffering with Depression). Men and women may also suffer from both an Eating Disorder and other psychological disorder(s) that completely co-exist with one another... or they can suffer from an Eating Disorder and have little or no signs of an additional psychological disorder (Note: The longer a person suffers, the more probable that they may be dealing with Depression or Anxiety as well). It is important to the recovery process and treatment that all these issues are addressed, and that a proper diagnosis be determined.
Some of the psychological illness that can be (but are not always) found in people suffering with Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating are: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, BiPolar and BiPolar II Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Panic Disorders and anxiety, and Dissociative Disorder and Multiple Personality Disorder.
In addition, some people suffering with an Eating Disorder may also be exhibiting other addictive or self-destructive behaviors. As an Eating Disorder is a reaction to a low self-esteem, and a negative means of coping with life and stress, so are other types of addictions. These can include alcoholism, drug addiction (illegal, prescription and/or over-the-counter medications), and self-injury, cutting and self-mutilation.
Harming oneself, also known as cutting, self-mutilation, or SIV (self-inflicted violence) is a coping mechanism that is sometimes found in people also suffering with an Eating Disorder. For some, they may find it easier to deal with real physical pain than to deal with their emotional pain, or some may feel emotionally numb and using SIV reminds them that they are alive. They may even feel that they deserve to be hurt. It can be used to block out emotional pain, or to make the person feel "strong". It is a way to cope with stress and anger, shame and guilt, sadness, and as a release for emotions that have built up inside. SIV can be mild to severe, but it should never be confused with a conscious attempt to commit suicide (though some may die as a result of their actions, this is relatively uncommon). SIV can include cutting, burning, punching, slapping, hitting oneself with an object, eye-pushing, biting and head-banging, and less common methods would be those that have long-lasting or life-long effects such as bone breaking, or amputation.
Suffering with an Eating Disorder, alone or combined with any other psychological illness or addiction, leaves each sufferer needing new and better ways to cope. Check out the Ways to Cope section for some suggestions, and reach out for help.
There is an indication that Eating Disorders may sometimes co-exist with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder). Studies have shown that women who go undiagnosed as ADD (but do in fact have it) are much more likely to develop an Eating Disorder. Some of the neurological symptoms of ADD/ADHD can be: holding onto negative thoughts and/or anger, as well as impulsivity both verbally (interrupting others) and in actions (acting before thinking). There may also be unexplained emotional negativity, depression, and even attempted suicide. To get a proper diagnosis, there is a whole criteria that needs to be met, so if you suspect you are living with ADHD or ADD, please visit one of the links below.
From the National ADD Association, "If untreated, individuals with ADHD may develop a variety of secondary problems as they move through life, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, academic failure, vocational problems, marital discord, and emotional distress." There are many of the same possible co-existing psychological illnesses with ADHD/ADD as with an Eating Disorder, including: Depression, BiPolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I have received e-mail from a good number of men who are simultaneously living with ADHD and an Eating Disorder, and I suspect there are many more, both men and women, doing the same.
The other psychological disorders and addictions that can co-exist with an Eating Disorder, or that can be the cause of disordered eating, are listed below, along with links to further information. Please, before jumping to any conclusions about yourself or a loved-one, research the information. Eating Disorders do not always co-exist with another psychological illness or addiction, but it is not uncommon to find that they do. Remember, many of these illnesses and conditions share similar symptoms. A proper diagnosis by a doctor is very important to successful treatment and recovery.
Noticing the Signs and Symptoms
Compulsive Overeating/Binge Eating Disorder 1. Fear of not being able to control eating, and while eating, not being able to stop. 2. Isolation. Fear of eating around and with others. 3. Chronic dieting on a variety of popular diet plans. 4. Holding the belief that life will be better if they can lose weight. 5. Hiding food in strange places (closets, cabinets, suitcases, under the bed) to eat at a later time. 6. Vague or secretive eating patterns. 7. Self-defeating statements after food consumption. 8. Blames failure in social and professional community on weight. 9. Holding the belief that food is their only friend. 10. Frequently out of breath after relatively light activities. 11. Excessive sweating and shortness of breath. 12. High blood pressure and/or cholesterol. 13. Leg and joint pain. 14. Weight gain. 15. Decreased mobility due to weight gain. 16. Loss of sexual desire or promiscuous relations. 17. Mood swings. Depression. Fatigue. 18. Insomnia. Poor Sleeping Habits.

19. Physical Dangers and Effects of an Eating Disorder 20. There are many men and women suffering with all types of Eating Disorders that do not appear in any specific weight range. Those with Anorexia can be slightly overweight... while those with Compulsive Eating can be slightly underweight. Variations for all who suffer can be anywhere from extremely underweight to extremely overweight to anywhere in between. The outward appearance of anyone with an Eating Disorder does NOT dictate the amount of physical danger they are in, nor does is determine the emotional conflict they feel inside. They need not display even close to all of the below symptoms to be in danger. 21. Behaviors Associated with Eating Disorders 22. Starvation and restriction of food, calories and/or fat grams sometimes accompanied by self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics and obsessive exercise with any food intake, or without food intake at all. also see definitions of: Anorexia | Bulimia | Compulsive Overeating 23. Binge and Purge episodes - abnormally large intake of food followed by self-induced vomiting, intake of laxatives or diuretics, obsessive exercise and/or periods of starvation. also see definitions of: Anorexia | Bulimia | Compulsive Overeating 24. Overeating. Binge Episodes - abnormally large, uncontrollable intake of food. also see definitions of: Anorexia | Bulimia | Compulsive Overeating 25. ALL Eating Disorders are Dangerous 26. It is important to understand that even though a person may be suffering specifically with Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating, it is not uncommon for them to exhibit behaviors from each of the three. It is also not uncommon for one Eating Disorder to be swapped for another (Example: a person who is suffering with Anorexia switches to Bulimia; a persons suffering with Compulsive Overeating switches to Anorexia). This is why it is important to be aware of THE DANGERS BELOW, all of which are risks no matter what Eating Disorder you suffer with. 27. DO NOT FALL INTO THE TRAP OF THINKING "I ONLY DO THIS A FEW TIMES A MONTH SO I CAN'T BE AT RISK" OR "I DON'T DO THIS ALL THE TIME, I JUST GO THROUGH HEALTHY AND NON-HEALTHY CYCLES" -- THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE NOT IN DANGER, NOR DOES IT MEAN YOU DO NOT SUFFER FROM AN EATING DISORDER (SEE QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER) 28. Dangers Associated with and Diseases Triggered or Caused by Eating Disorder Behaviors 29. Malnutrition - caused by undereating or overeating. The word malnutrition indicates deficiency for energy, protein and micronutrients (e.g. vitamin A, iodine and iron) either singularly or in combination. It can cause severe health risks including (but not limited to) respiratory infections, kidney failure, blindness, heart attack and death.

30. Dehydration - caused by the depletion or lack of intake of fluids in the body, or by restriction of carbohydrates and fat. Restriction/Starvation, vomiting and laxative abuse are the primary causes in sufferers of Eating Disorders. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, or darkening of urine. It can lead to kidney failure, heart failure, seizures, brain damage and death.

31. Electrolyte Imbalances - electrolyte are essential to the production of the body's "natural electricity" that ensures healthy teeth, joints and bones, nerve and muscle impulses, kidneys and heart, blood sugar levels and the delivery of oxygen to the cells.

32. Hyponatremia (related to "water-loading") - as stated above, electrolytes are essential to proper body functioning. Drinking too much water (more than eight, eight-ounce glasses in less than twelve hours), can cause Hyponatremia (not enough sodium in the blood), especially in someone already malnourished or dehydrated. Hyponatremia can cause fluid in the lungs, the brain to swell, nausea, vomiting, confusion and even death. 33. Refeeding Syndrome (related to treatment) - Starved or severely malnourished patients can undergo life-threatening fluid and electrolyte shifts following the initiation of aggressive nutritional support therapies. This phenomenon is known as "refeeding syndrome" and can occur in patients receiving either enteral (tube feeding) or parenteral (intravenous feeding) nutritional support. To avoid the development of the refeeding syndrome, nutrition support in patients at risk should be increased slowly while assuring adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Organ function, fluid balance and serum electrolytes (especially phosphorus, potassium and magnesium) need to be monitored daily during the first week and less often thereafter.

34. Lanugo - (soft downy hair on face, back and arms). This is caused due to a protective mechanism built-in to the body to help keep a person warm during periods of starvation and malnutrition, and the hormonal imbalances that result. 35. Edema - swelling of the soft tissues as a result of excess water accumulation. It is most common in the legs and feet of Compulsive Overeaters and in the abdominal area of Anorexics and/or Bulimics (can be caused by Laxative and Diuretic use). 36. Muscle Atrophy - wasting away of muscle and decrease in muscle mass due to the body feeding off of itself.
Impaired Neuromuscular Function - due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies (specifically potassium), and malnutrition.

37. Paralysis - transient (or temporary) paralysis -- extreme weakness of muscles or not being able to move at all -- Caused by low levels of potassium, and/or the degeneration of nerve cells, in the spinal cord or in the brain, which have been deprived of essential nutrients. Left untreated, periods of paralysis may happen more frequently and more severely, lead to permanent muscle weakness, and even result in death. 38. Tearing of Esophagus - caused by self-induced vomiting
Mallory-Weiss tear - associate with vomiting, a tear of the gastroesophageal junction
Gastric Rupture - spontaneous stomach erosion, perforation or rupture.
Gastrointestinal Bleeding - bleeding into the digestive tract.

39. Esophageal Reflux - Acid Reflux Disorders - partially digested items in the stomach, mixed with acid and enzymes, regurgitates back into the esophagus. This can lead to damage to the esophagus, larynx and lungs and increases the chances of developing cancer of the esophagus and voice box.
Reflux can sometimes become severe enough that food cannot be kept down at all and medical attention should be sought immediately.
Barrett's Esophagus - associated with Cancer of the esophagus and caused by Esophageal Reflux, this is a change in the cells within the esophagus.

40. Cancer - of the throat and voice box (Larynx) due to acid reflux disorders.

41. Insomnia - having problems falling and/or staying asleep.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - continuous and crippling fatigue related to a weakened immune system.

Hyperactivity - manic bouts of not being able to sit still. 42. Swelling - in face and cheeks (following self-induced vomiting). 43. Callused or bruised fingers - this is caused by repeatedly using the fingers to induce vomiting. 44. Dry Skin and Hair, Brittle Hair and Nails, Hair Loss - cause by Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies, malnutrition and dehydration. 45. Low Blood Pressure, Hypotension(more common in those with Anorexia and/or Bulimia) - cause by lowered body temperature, malnutrition and dehydration. Can cause heart arrhythmias, shock or myocardial infarction.

Orthostatic Hypotension - sudden drop in blood pressure upon sitting up or standing. Symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, passing out, heart pounding and headaches.

46. High Blood Pressure, Hypertension(more common in those with Compulsive Overeating and/or Binge Eating Disorder) - elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90. Can cause: blood vessel changes in the back of the eye creating vision impairment; abnormal thickening of the heart muscle; kidney failure; and brain damage.

47. Low Platelet Count or Thrombocytopenia -
Caused by low levels of vitamin B12 and Folic Acid, and/or by excessive alcohol. It may also be an indication of a suppressed immune system or immune dysfunction.

48. Disruptions in Blood Sugar Levels -
Low Blood Sugar/Hypoglycemia: can indicate problems with the liver or kidneys and can lead to neurological and mental deterioration.

Elevated Blood Sugar/Hyperglycemia - can lead to diabetes, liver and kidney shut down, circulatory and immune system problems. 49. Diabetes - high blood sugar as a result of low production of insulin. This can be caused by hormonal imbalances, hyperglycemia, or chronic pancreatitis.

50. Ketoacidosis - high levels of acids that build up in the blood (known as ketones) caused by the body burning fat (instead of sugar and carbohydrates) to get energy. It can be a result of starvation, excessive purging, dehydration, hyperglycemia and/or alcohol abuse (it can also be a result of uncontrolled or untreated diabetes). It can lead to coma and death.

*You do not need to be diabetic or alcoholic to end up with Ketoacidosis! 51. Iron Deficiency, Anemia - this makes the oxygen transporting units within the blood useless and can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, increased infections, and heart palpitations.

52. Kidney Infection and Failure - your kidneys "clean" the poisons from your body, regulate acid concentration and maintain water balance. Vitamin Deficiencies, dehydration, infection and low blood pressure increase the risks of and associated with kidney infection thus making permanent kidney damage and kidney failure more likely. 53. Osteoporosis - Thinning of the bones with reduction in bone mass due to depletion of calcium and bone protein, predisposing to fractures.
Osteopenia - Below normal bone mass indicating a calcium and/or vitamin D deficiency and leading to Osteoporosis.
* Hormone imbalance/deficiencies associated with the loss of the menstrual cycle can also increase your risks of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. 54. Arthritis (degenerative) - can be caused by hormonal imbalances and vitamin deficiencies as well as increased stress on the joints in individuals who suffering Compulsive Overeating. 55. TMJ "Syndrome" and Related TMJ Problems - degenerative arthritis within the tempero-mandibular joint in the jaw (where the lower jaw hinges to the skull) creating pain in the joint area, headaches, and problems chewing and opening/closing the mouth. Vitamin deficiencies and teeth grinding (often related to stress) can both be causes.

56. Amenorrhea - Loss of Menstrual Cycle (due to lack of secreting hormone, Oestrogen, by the ovaries). Loss of the menstrual cycle can also lead to Osteopenia and Osteoporosis.

57. Easily Bruising Skin - Vitamin Deficiencies that decrease the body's ability to heal itself, low blood pressure, low platelets count and/or extreme weight loss will all lead to easily bruised skin that can take a long time to heal. 58. Dental Problems, Decalcification of teeth, erosion of tooth enamel, severe decay, Gum Disease - will be caused by stomach acids and enzymes (from vomiting); vitamin D and calcium deficiencies, and hormonal imbalance. Can also be due to the lack of exercise the teeth can get from the process of eating certain foods. Dental problems can sometime indicate problems with the heart.

59. Liver Failure - the liver aids in removing waste from cells, and aids in digestion. You cannot live without your Liver. Fasting and taking acetaminophen (drug found in over-the-counter pain killers) increases your risks for Liver damage and failure. Loss of menstruation and dehydration (putting women at risk for too much iron in their system), and chronic heart failure can lead to liver damage or failure. 60. Bad Circulation, Slowed or Irregular Heartbeat, Arrhythmias, Angina, Heart Attack - There are many factors associated with having an Eating Disorder that can lead to heart problems or a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest can cause permanent damage to the heart, or instant death... electrolyte imbalances (especially potassium deficiency), dehydration, malnutrition, low blood pressure, extreme orthostatic hypotension, abnormally slow heart rate, electrolyte imbalances, and hormonal imbalances can all cause serious problems with the heart, high blood pressure, accumulation of fat deposits around the heart muscle, high cholesterol, decreased exercise due to lack of mobility, diabetes and hormonal imbalances can all lead to serious problems with the heart. 61. Infertility - the inability to have children. Caused by loss of menstrual cycle, and hormonal imbalances. Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies can also make it impossible to succeed with a full-term pregnancy, and can increase the chances significantly of a baby born with birth defects.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - a study a few years ago suggested that people with Eating Disorders were at an increased risk for developing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCO), and that recovery from the Eating Disorder should be part of treatment for PCO.

62. Problems during pregnancy - including potential for high risk pregnancies, miscarriage, still born babies and death or chronic illness from minor to severe, in children born (all due to malnutrition, dehydration, vitamin and hormone deficiencies).

63. Depression - mood swings and depression can be cause by physiological factors such as electrolyte imbalances, hormone and vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition and dehydration. Living with the Eating Disorder behaviors themselves will cause depression.
Depression can also lead the sufferer back into the cycle of the Eating Disorder (or may have initially been the problem before the onset of the ED). Stress within family, job and relationships can all be causes. There are also a percentage of people born with a pre-disposition to depression, based on family history.
Can lead to Suicide

64. Lowered body temperature - Temperature Sensitivity - caused by loss of healthy insulating layer of fat and lowered blood pressure. 65. Cramps, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, incontinence - increased or decreased bowel activity.

66. Peptic Ulcers - aggravated or made more severe by increased stomach acids, cigarette smoking, high consumption of caffeine or alcohol

67. Pancreatitis - this is when the digestive enzymes attack the pancreas. It can be caused by repeated stomach trauma (such as with vomiting), alcohol consumption or the excessive use of laxatives or diet pills.

68. Digestive Difficulties - a deficiency in digestive enzymes will lead to the bodies inability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients. This can lead to malabsorption problems, malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances. Diseases that may be triggered by a history of an Eating Disorder include: Celiac Disease (gluten sensitivity), and Crohn's Disease

69. Weakness and Fatigue - caused by generalized poor eating habits, electrolyte imbalances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, depression, malnutrition, heart problems. 70. Seizures - the increased risk of seizures in Anorexic and Bulimic individuals may be caused by dehydration, hyperglycemia or ketoacidosis. It is also possible that lesions on the brain caused by long-term malnutrition and lack of oxygen-carrying cells to the brain may play a role. SOME type of antidepressants can increase the risk of seizure and usually carry a warning against prescribing them to people with Eating Disorders, unless the benefits significantly outweigh the risks.
Death caused by any of the following or any combination of the following: heart attack or heart failure; lung collapse; internal bleeding, stroke, kidney failure, liver failure; pancreatitis, gastric rupture, perforated ulcer, depression and suicide.

Common Misconceptions
Below are some of the most commonly held misconceptions about the behaviors attributed to Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating.
"I don't fit any category... I only eat when I absolutely have to (but I don't binge) and then purge whatever I do eat..."
Those suffering Anorexia do not always completely restrict. Often times when they cannot avoid a meal or food they will follow any consumption with self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse. This is considered "Anorexia, Purging Type." You should read the definitions of Anorexia, Bulimia, Compulsive Overeating, and Binge Eating Disorder, as well as "Eating Disorders not Otherwise Specified".
"I am above/on the high end of my healthy weight range... I cannot possibly have an Eating Disorder..."
People suffering with any Eating Disorder can be of any weight. For most sufferers weight will continuously be going up and down. The weight of a person's body does not indicate their overall health, nor does it change the danger each sufferer may be in! There are more dangers involved in the disordered eating patterns themselves, rather than in each person's actual weight. the idea that only "young white women" suffer, less and less people who suffer that don't fit this ideal will not come forward, be acknowledged, and get the help they deserve.
"I eat three meals a day (or I eat a lot during the course of a day) and never purge. How can I have an Eating Disorder?..."
Disordered eating doesn't always mean restricting, binging and/or purging. Sufferers sometimes eat 3 meals a day, or eat continuously throughout the day and through this can disillusion themselves into thinking that all is fine. If these eating patterns or meals consist of only lettuce, salad or yogurt (or other comparably low calorie, low fat food), and the calorie intake overall is far below normal (and is combined with emotional attributes), this would be considered Anorexia. A person suffering may not be "starving" themself of food per se, but of any real calories, substance and nutrition. (The same is illustrated above in the example of eating candy.)
"My family member/friend eats normally around me. He/She can't possible have an Eating Disorder..."
It is not uncommon for those with Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Eating to eat "normally" around others. This type of sufferer may look forward to their time alone, to be able to "make up for" the time they've spent eating "normally" around others. Anorexics will completely starve themselves, Bulimics will binge and purge, and Compulsive Overeaters will overeat or binge once they have gotten back into their solitary environment. Sufferers may even look forward to being alone so they can partake in disordered eating patterns.
"This is just a phase..."
Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating are not phases a child, teen or adult goes through. Some may go through dieting phases but this is far different from having an Eating Disorder. You should visit the other sections on the website to learn more about what having an Eating Disorder means.
"I take vitamin/mineral supplements so I know
I will stay healthy..."
Vitamin Supplements will not protect anyone from the harm an Eating Disorder will expose the body to. Vitamins and Minerals are absorbed into the body much more efficiently through their source food, and work in harmony with one another to ensure the highest level of effectiveness and absorption. While taking vitamins and minerals may help to provide a sense of security, or even prolong certain aspects of health (like warding off infection), they will not protect you from the dangers associated with having an Eating Disorder, such as: the bowel or kidneys shutting down, shrinkage of the brain, dehydration, diabetes, TMJ Syndrome and misalignment of the teeth, tears in the esophagus, ulcers, joint pain and arthritis, digestive and absorption problems, acid reflux disorders, cancer of the mouth and throat, low or high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia and cardiac arrest, loss of menstrual cycle, infertility, dilation of the intestines, or depression and suicide.
"Everyone who is overweight or fat has
Compulsive Overeating..."
What defines the illnesses of Compulsive Overeating or Binge Eating Disorder is more than just the weight range of the individual. Emotional eating, eating to fill a void, stuffing down feelings with binging, isolation and pushing others away are just some of the traits. There are also those who suffer from Compulsive Overeating or Binge Eating Disorder who are not extremely overweight, as well, there are other reasons an individual can be overweight (including medical reasons or genetic pre-dispositions to a larger body size). The overall symptoms that help determine if a person suffers from any disordered eating are how their eating relates to a lack of self-esteem and ability to cope with pain, anger and stress.
"I can't die from this..."
Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating can kill those who suffer from them. Eating Disorders have the highest rate of death out of any other psychological illness. Up to 30% of the sufferers of Eating Disorders (and maybe higher) will die as a result of a complication caused by the illness. Be sure to see the Physical Dangers sections to read about all the complications associated with Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating. Many myths surround eating disorders - that they only affect young women, for example, or they're a modern phenomenon, but what are the realities?
Living with an eating disorder is a miserable, lonely experience. For most people, food is one of life's pleasures and an important social event. So if your feelings about food aren't relaxed, an important part of life becomes extremely stressed. This stress may add to other enormous stresses that may have led to the eating disorder in the first place.
When someone you know and love develops an eating disorder, it's easy to feel confused about what to do, and even threatened or angry.
Unfortunately, many health professionals are just as much at sea. Although eating disorders are increasing, we still know very little about their causes. Worse still, there aren't any quick or easy treatments.
A few things are clear. People with eating disorders aren't: * Bad or being defiant * Going through a 'teenage phase' * The result of poor or inadequate parenting * The product of modern stresses and obsession with weight * Able to snap out of it
3 June 2010 Last updated at 07:08 ET
Study examines effect of workplace stress on eating

Researchers are to look at the effect stress in the workplace has on eating disorders.
Scientists at the University of Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute will also asses how working shifts affects how people eat.
The team will look at whether sweet tastes and rich textures can cause food addiction.
Volunteers will be recruited to help in the research.
Wrong amounts
Prof Julian Mercer, who is leading the study, told BBC Scotland: "What we are trying to do is assess some of the aspects of our feeding behaviour that contribute to the obesity problem.
"Workplace stress can drive people down a route to inappropriate eating."
He said they would assess what was influencing people to eat the wrong foods or the wrong amount of food.
It is part of a European-wide study to find out some reasons why people eat too much and run the risk of obesity. Binge Eating Disorder
Obesity in the UK is still increasing, and as researchers struggle to understand why, it is now believed that many obese people could have an undiagnosed eating disorder. * Video: See the full Inside Out report *
Mark in the video stated that he said he’s ok when he doesn’t eat, but when he starts, he cannot stop and that’s the problem. At work, his mind is not focused on food, but he binges when he gets home and then goes straight to bed. He also said that he tries to eat late so that there is less time before he goes to bed to eat.He has tried every diet possible, but to no avail. Doctors tell him what not to each, and what to eat more of, then let him exercise on his own, but he stated that he cannot do it on his own. He doesn’t consider when he eats a meal. His said that his mind turns off and eats whatever is there around him. He knows that he eats too much and I ashamed to eat in front of anyone unless he has no other option. He told the reporter that he doesn’t want to eat in front of another person because they will pass judgment on him and that he knows he is not supposed to eat that much. During the interview, Mark was eating a sandwich and confessed that he was full after the first sandwich, but continued to eat because he wants more food and purchased more food and didn’t want it to go to waste.
There are more cases of binge eating disorders that anorexia. In fact, most cases of bulimia lead to obesity. Overeating in a study was deemed less as gluttony and greed, but more of a mental disorder. Eating large quantities of fats and carbs releases chemicals in the brain making you feel good, the analyst even goes further and calls it “a fix”, so if a person eats large amounts of food, they actually feel better, but only when they are eating. This sensation only encourages people to continue eating, or eat again. Most people are unaware of this chemical reaction. When they are not eating depression sets in, causing the person to eat more because of the disappointment. Then this circle goes on and on for years. Researchers say that emotion is the biggest factor.
Binge Eating Disorder has only relatively recently been recognized – yet it is more common that anorexia.
According to the Norfolk based national eating disorders charity, Beat, more needs to be done to understand this complex condition.
Doctors often don't diagnose it and so sufferers go without treatment.
Impossible to stop
Mark Crook was diagnosed a year ago. He is 30 and weighs 32 stone, and finds it impossible to stop eating.

Obesity - on the increase.
"Food rules my life. I would more than happily never eat again. If it wasn't for food, I would be fit and healthy," he says.
He was diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder a year ago.
"I don't consider that I eat a lot. But when I binge, I don't think of it as a meal - my brain switches off.
"Food rules my life. I would very happily never eat again."
Mark has started his own website and forum, which offers mutual help and support for other people who over eat.
Action needed
Susan Ringwood, Chief Executive of Beat, says more needs to be done.
"People can recover if they get the right help quickly enough. At the moment that's not happening for most people.

Lee Richardson - tackling overeating.
"We are calling on the medical profession to understand this and improved the services they provide."
Thirty-year-old Lee Richardson from Hadleigh in Suffolk also weighs 32 stone, but no one has ever got to the bottom of why he is so over weight.
"My main problem is when I start to eat, it's stopping that is the biggest problem. I can't stop" he says.
"The doctor gave me some free slimming world vouchers and then when they ran out, it was more or less 'you're old enough to do it yourself'."
Daily struggle
Julia Buckroyd, Emeritus Professor from the University of Hertfordshire, has been studying over eating for 10 years and believes understanding the emotional dimension, not diets, is the key.

Julia Buckroyd - studying root causes.
"Not everyone who over eats has a disorder. Over eating has become part of our society."
"We're not talking about that. What we're talking about here are people who have a daily struggle with food."
According to Professor Buckroyd, 80% of diets don't work.
She has conducted trials using group therapy with women who over eat. The results are promising.
Groups are about to launch initially in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire in mid February 2009. * irony of people in wealthy countries wasting away surrounded by food, when others in poorer countries have no food at all.

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