Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by being significantly underweight (e.g., body weight is less than 85% of normal for age and height); there is an extreme fear of weight gain; body image disturbance; and absence of at least 3 menstrual cycles. Individuals suffering from Anorexia Nervosa typically have rigid rules about food (e.g., what not to eat; how much to eat; when to eat). Some individuals with Anorexia Nervosa will engage in binge eating and/or purging (self-induced vomiting, laxatives, or diuretics). There are many serious medical complications with Anorexia Nervosa including osteoporosis, cardiac problems, and endocrine issues.
Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by binge eating (eating an amount of food that is larger than the average person would eat in a discrete period of time coupled with a sense of lack of control over one’s eating) and self-defeating compensatory methods to prevent weight gain (e.g., self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise). Self-evaluation/self-worth is excessively influenced by one’s body shape and weight. In addition, many individuals suffering from Bulimia Nervosa attempt to delay their eating for long periods of time; engage in body checking (pinching parts of one’s body to feel for fatness, repeatedly looking in the mirror; or avoidance (purposely not looking to parts of one’s body believed to be fat or disgusting). Medical complications associated with Bulimia Nervosa include but are not limited to electrolyte imbalance, gastrointestinal issues, dental problems, inflamed throat and swollen glands.
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ED NOS) encompasses those individuals who do not meet the full criteria for either Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa. Many individuals with ED NOS often engage in episodes of binge eating without the inappropriate compensatory behaviors of self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives or diuretics; or engage in purging after eating what is considered a normal amount of food; or repeatedly chew and spit out a large amount of food.