What Are Eating Disorders?
Disordered eating occurs in affluent cultures and especially in America, where frank eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa (voluntary starvation) and bulimia nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging) now afflict one in ten persons.
Most are young women in their teens and 20s, but the disorders are also increasing among young men.
Among the most baffling of conditions, eating disorders take on a life of their own so that eating, or not eating, becomes the point of everyday existence. Both anorexia and bulimia are powered by an intense fear of fat and desire for control.
But in another eating disorder, binge-eating, in which people gorge on large amounts of food and generally gain weight, sufferers feel that eating is out of their control during such bouts.
Both culturally mediated body-image concerns and personality traits like perfectionism and obsessiveness play a large role in creating eating disorders, which are also often accompanied by depression and/or anxiety.
There is no magic cure for these conditions, which are often resistant to treatment, and anorexia can be acutely life-threatening, requiring hospitalization and forced nourishment.