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There are two major types of eating disorders: bulimia and anorexia. They have different features but are equally dangerous if taken to extremes.

Bulimia involves bingeing on food and having regular episodes of purging, laxative abuse or diuretic use so that weight is not gained. Many people with bulimia also have some degree of anorexia nervosa as listed below.

Causes of bulimia are unclear. It is most commonly a disease of adolescent girls and young women who are aware of their abnormal eating pattern; they may have guilt or fear around their episodes. It is felt that genetic causes exist, along with cultural factors, trauma, family issues and psychological factors. Bulimia is likely multi-factorial.

Symptoms of bulimia, including eating binges usually occur several times per day and last for many months. These people often eat large amounts of food in secret and feel out of control with regard to their eating. Binges lead to disgust of oneself, which leads in turn to purging to prevent weight gain. The purging can include vomiting, excessive exercise, enemas, laxatives or diuretic pills. They feel relief after purging but the cycle starts all over again.

An exam may show cavities in the dental area or gum infections such as gingivitis. The enamel of the teeth may be eroded due to exposure to stomach acid. A physical examination may show broken blood vessels in the eyes, dry mouth, rashes and pimples, small cuts on the fingers from self induced vomiting, and swollen salivary glands.

Treatment may mean hospitalization to control symptoms. Medications may help with withdrawal from purging and antidepressants may need to be used if depression is present. Therapy and support groups are warranted.

Anorexia is also called anorexia nervosa. It is a psychological disorder that involves out of control dieting behaviour. The individual often starts dieting normally but then degenerates into severe dieting behaviour including eating extremely small amounts of food, starving oneself, some purging and excessive exercise. Weight loss is common as the person consistently feels fat and will lose weight to the point of extreme weight loss. The individual desires major control over their weight loss. This is an obsessive and addicting type of behavioural problem.

About ninety five percent of individuals with anorexia are women or teen girls but it is possible in males. While anorexia typically begins in adolescence, it is also found in children and in adults. It is present in one percent of people. It is more common in Caucasians. Up to 3.7 percent of women will suffer from this at some point in their life.

It is a common disease in ballerinas, other dancers, actors and athletes. These are groups of people with whom thinness is expected and the obsession can take over.

Anorexia has no definite cause but is considered both psychological and physical in nature. There is a genetic component to the disease that has been found by research. A gene located on chromosome 1p seems to be related to getting anorexia nervosa. There is also a dysfunction in the hypothalamus that regulates metabolism, and imbalances in neurotransmitters from the hypothalamus seem to be a factor in getting the disease. There is believed to be a lifelong history of under eating and picky eating that extends into infancy. A poor self image makes this disorder worse.

The treatment of anorexia nervosa includes hospitalization in order to regain some of the weight back and to begin the process of counselling. Sometimes medications are used to treat underlying depression or obsessive compulsive symptoms. Gradually, the person can become an outpatient and can undergo therapy and group support in order to recover from their condition.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Eating Disorder solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and an Eating Disorder solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here