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Everybody eats. We do so both because we need to and because we enjoy it. However, as with all human behavior, there are huge differences between people. Some eat more, some eat less, some put on weight easily, others do not. And some people go to such extremes that they harm themselves, by eating too much or too little. As a result they may harm their health and come to the attention of doctors. Although there are many types of eating disorders, this section deals with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are extremely widespread and dangerous problems. The chief symptoms are self-induced starvation and/or binge eating and purging. For many, these are compulsive addictions, like alcoholism. Thousands of cases report ill health, psychological impairments, shame, guilt, withdrawal and isolation -- all leading to devastated lives. These illnesses is also highly destructive to other family members and friends.

Although it is easier to talk about them as different conditions, individual patients often suffer from symptoms of both. Indeed, it often happens that bulimia develops after a period of months or years of anorexic symptoms.

People with anorexia starve themselves, avoid high-calorie foods and exercise constantly. People with bulimia eat huge amounts of food, but they throw up soon after eating, or take laxatives or diuretics (water pills) to keep from gaining weight. People with bulimia don't usually lose as much weight as people with anorexia.

Women suffer from these disorders 10 times as often as men. Although often thought of as adult problems, these disorders most often start in the teenage years while the sufferer is still at home.

Find out more about these eating disorders by clicking on the topics below.

  Some Disturbing Facts about Eating Disorders  

  What is Anorexia Nervosa?  

  What is Bulimia Nervosa?  

  Health Consequences  

  Who Develops Anorexia  

  Who Develops Bulimia  

  Treatment Strategies  

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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12