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Eating Disorder


Eating disorders are characterized by self critical thoughts about weight and eating. It affects one’s behaviour in terms of eating habits and daily activities. 90% of people with eating disorders are females. The most common type of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Eating disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but some reports indicate their onset can occur during childhood or later in adulthood. Eating disorders frequently occur together with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders.

Anorexia nervosa

  • People with anorexia usually starve themselves and refuse to maintain their ideal body weight because they feel they are overweight.

Bulimia nervosa

  • Bulimia is characterized by habitual binge eating and purging. A person with bulimia may experience weight fluctuations, but usually do not suffer from the low weight associated with anorexia.

Signs and symptom

The signs and symptoms of anorexia include

  • Weight loss, sometimes achieved by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, use of diuretics or exercise
  • Refusal to maintain normal body weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Seeing themselves as fat even though they are not
  • Menstrual changes or the absence of menstruation in females
  • Fatigue
  • Baby-fine hair covering the body (lanugo)
  • Mild anemia
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Low blood pressure

The signs and symptoms of bulimia include

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating(compulsive overeating)
  • Feeling that their eating behavior cannot be controlled
  • Efforts to prevent weight gain by either self-induced vomiting, using laxatives or other medications, fasting or excessive exercise following a binge
  • Unhealthy focus on body shape and weight
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Damaged teeth and gums from gastric acid in vomit
  • Swollen cheeks from regular vomiting


Anorexia nervosa

It may lead to death due to starvation or suicide. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people may die from this disorder. Other complications are irregular heart beats, hormonal problems which may lead to menstrual problems in females, infertility and bone loss, imbalance of body minerals(electrolytes) and nerve problems

Bulimia nervosa

May cause teeth and gum problems due to gastric acid in vomit. Dehydration may result from frequent vomiting and cause lowering of levels of potassium. This can cause weakness and irregular heart beat. Purging may cause irritation of the walls of the esophagus and may also cause constipation.


Severe cases may need to be hospitalized to correct dehydration, body mineral imbalance and to improve nutritional status. A dietitian will help in planning a diet regime so that gradual weight gain can be achieved.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is useful in helping to correct the negative perceptions associated with the problem. Family therapy also plays a part in patients whose problems are related to the family. Medication can also be used especially if there are other psychiatric disorders present.


Realistic portrayal of women?s bodies is vital as many girls and young women aspire to have skinny bodies as portrayed by the media. Good self esteem and communication in the family also helps in preventing this disorder..


Learning about eating healthy and balanced meals with appropriate exercise is essential in the long term management. Coping skills are important especially developing good self esteem, improving family communication and also having good social support.

Support groups


:Last Reviewed : 20 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Eni Rahaiza binti Muhd Ramli
Reviewer : Dr. Nor’Izam binti Md Alias