The general dangers of eating disorders are well known to most people, but few understand the realities behind them and what it means for those who suffer from them. According to, “20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.”

Eating disorders come in many shapes and forms, but among the most common are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder (BED). In order to truly understand the harsh realities of eating disorders, it is important for people to understand the differences between them and the unique dangers that each of them holds.

Anorexia Nervosa

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Anorexia nervosa is defined as “a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.” There are a number of possible symptoms to be noted when diagnosing anorexia. Some of these symptoms include extreme weight loss, abnormal blood counts, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness or fainting, and bluish discoloration of the fingers.  The Mayo Clinic has a complete list of all of the possible symptoms that could arise in someone suffering from anorexia.

Anorexia goes much further than just changing a person physically, often times, their personality and behavior are affected as well. Many of those who suffer from anorexia become irritable, depressed and begin to withdraw from social interaction.

There are many negative side-effects that develop from anorexia. The most deadly of which are heart problems, kidney failure and an increased risk of suicide. Ultimately, if not treated, anorexia has the capability to eventually lead to the death of the victim, once their organs begin to fail due to lack of nutrients.

There are a number of things to watch for in your friends and family that could be a sign they could be suffering from anorexia. Some of these tells include skipping meals, making excuses not to eat, complaining about being fat or not eating in public. If you think that a friend or family member may show some of the symptoms of anorexia, finding help for them is wildly important as anorexia can be lethal when not treated.

Bulimia Nervosa

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Bulimia Nervosa is defined as “a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.”

Consuming large amounts of food, followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain (ie. vomiting, intense exercise, etc.), a feeling of being out of control during a binge-eating episode, and low self-esteem that is mainly related to the body, are all symptoms of bulimia.

The effects of bulimia, like anorexia, can become fatal when not treated. Inflammation and rupture of the esophagus, heart complications, gastric rupture and tooth decay are only some of the devastating effects brought on by bulimia. Psychologically, bulimia has many of the same effects as anorexia. Depression, social withdraw and irritability are all common companions of bulimia.

Evidence of binge eating, evidence of purging behavior, swelling of the cheeks/jaw and staining of the teeth are all physical warning signs to look out for. Withdrawal from typical activities and friendships, a preoccupation with diet and a continuation of exercise despite injury are all behavioral symptoms to pay attention to as well.

Like with anorexia, it is important to seek help if you believe a friend may have bulimia, as it can become fatal, if not treated.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

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Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is defined as “an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort).” BED gets much less attention in society as a dangerous eating disorder, but it can be just as deadly and dangerous as anorexia and bulimia.

The diagnosis criteria for BED are recurrent episodes of binge eating (at least once a week for 3 months), marked with a following feeling of distress. Additionally, the episodes must not be followed by behaviors of purging (ie. bulimia) in order to be considered a symptom of BED.

Physical effects of BED can be life threatening. High blood pressure, heart disease, type II diabetes, high cholesterol and gallbladder disease are all common effects of BED. Additionally, many of those who suffer with BED, also experience a number of psychological effects. Major depression, anxiety and overall lower quality of life are common among BED victims.

Signs of binge eating, secretive food behaviors, weight gain and emotional changes are all red flags to pay attention to when it comes to binge eating.

Although many people do not think of weight gain when they think of eating disorders, BED can be just as lethal as anorexia and bulimia. If you think someone may be suffering with BED, do not hesitate to find help for them.

Eating disorders have become far too common throughout the United States. Many people who suffer with them may not even realize that they are. It is important to be educated on the signs, symptoms and effects of eating disorders so that you can ensure the health and safety of yourself and loved ones.