|Anorexia and bulimia used to be considered an eating disorder that afflicted teenage girls. But doctors are finding that a growing number of older women are now being diagnosed with some sort of eating disorder.
People tend to make another mistake in their perception of eating disorders - they assume they are relatively benign psychological problems that are easily treated and without lasting physical effects.
"People are surprised when they learn these have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis, somewhere between 10 and 15 percent," said Bunnell, who's also a member of the National Eating Disorders Association board of directors.
Anorexia nervosa produces dramatic weight loss caused by excessive or compulsive dieting. An estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Anorexics see themselves as overweight even though they're dangerously slim. The process of eating disorder becomes an obsessive minefield and unusual eating habits develop, such as picking out just a few foods and eating them in tiny, carefully measured quantities.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by excessive binge eating followed by purging the food through vomiting, laxatives or over-exercising. An estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent of American females will struggle with bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.
Because of the purging, people with bulimia usually weigh within the normal range for their age and height, and are rarely seen as fat people. But they still suffer the same fears about weight gain as anorexics. So, they often perform bulimic actions secretly, feeling disgusted and ashamed when they binge, yet relieved once they purge.|