Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness. People with this condition have a
preoccupation with food and body image to the extreme: They don't eat or eat far
too little to maintain health. Despite being underweight, they continue to try
to lose weight. While the syndrome is more common in women than in men, it is
now understood to affect more men than previously thought. Statistics indicate that anorexia most often begins between 13-30 years
of age. The numbers of children and adolescents with eating disorders has steadily increased in the United States since the 1950s. The long-term effects and medical complications brought about by this psychiatric disorder can be severe and even fatal.
Bulimia nervosa is another eating disorder that involves a preoccupation with
food and body image. However, characteristics of people with bulimia tend to be
that they are of normal weight, binge eat within any two-hour period, and have
trouble controlling the urge to binge. They then try to compensate for (undo)
the binge in an unhealthy way, by practices such as self-induced vomiting,
misuse of medications, fasting, or exercising excessively.
As opposed to anorexia, binge eating disorder involves recurring episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food, along with a sense of feeling out of control at least weekly over three or more months. It also involves strong feelings of embarrassment and guilt. Binge eating disorder is much less common than pure overeating and is usually associated with many more physical and mental health effects.
All people with anorexia need treatment. In most cases, this involves seeing a doctor and having regular counseling sessions. A hospital stay is needed for those who are seriously underweight or who have severe medical problems. The goals of treatment are to restore a healthy weight and healthy eating habits.
If you have an eating disorder, try not to resist treatment. Although you may be very afraid of gaining weight, try to think of weight gain as a life-saving measure. With help, you can learn to eat well and keep your weight at a healthy level.