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Disordered eating is a classification (within DSM-IV-TR, used in the health-care field) to describe a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. If the disordered eating is clinically significant, people with it may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified. A change in eating patterns can also be caused by other mental disorders (e.g. clinical depression), or by factors that are generally considered to be unrelated to mental disorders (e.g. extreme homesickness).
Some people consider disordered-eating patterns that are not the result of a specific eating disorder to be less serious than symptoms of disorders such as anorexia nervosa. Others note that individual cases may involve serious problems with food and body image. Additionally, certain types of disordered eating can include symptoms from both classic cases of anorexia and bulimia, making disordered eating just as dangerous.
Some counselors specialize in disordered-eating patterns. The recognition that some people have eating problems that do not fit into the scope of specific eating disorders makes it possible for a larger proportion of people who have eating problems to receive help.
There a several factors that lead to disordered eating. These may include:
- Culture: In the United States, thinness is a social and cultural ideal, and women are partially defined by how physically attractive the are. The average woman in the U.S. is 5 foot, 4 inches and 140 pounds while the average model in the U.S. is 5 foot, 11 inches and 117 pounds. That is a drastic difference between the average woman and model. We see models in a different light because of how the industry portrays them and puts them out into the spotlight so everyday people see them. Seeing these images of what is attractive can be diminishing to a young person.
- Personal characteristics: Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and poor self-image often accompany eating disorders. Those feelings are a negative influence on how people can/do view themselves.
- Other emotional disorders: Other mental health problems, life depression or anxiety, occur along with eating disorders. If a person gets anxiety from day-to-day activities then (s)he is more likely to develop a disordered eating habit. They range from having anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Some people just want to eat what they want, then quickly get rid of what they just consumed, or they would rather not have anything at all.
- Stressful events or life changes: When people go through events that may cause stress for themselves, then some sort of reaction toward food might occur. If a traumatic event has already happened in a person's life, particularly when they are younger, then it translates into how they grow up into adolescence.
- Biology: Studies are being done to look at genes, hormones, and chemicals in the brain that may have an effect on the development of, and recovery from eating disorders. Women are more likely to suffer from disordered eating because of how women's bodies change throughout their lives. Women's hips move out during puberty so they can eventually give birth. In this process, it is possible for young girls to notice this change as negative and want to stay thin, and even thinner than they were before. They do not want to gain weight or add to the curves they got during puberty.
- Families: Parents' attitudes about appearance and diet can affect their kids' attitudes. Also, if your mother or sister has bulimia, you are more likely to have it. Young children always want to do what their parent or older sibling does. Young girls are more likely to follow their mother's and/or older sister(s)' choices and repeat their actions. It is possible to have disordered eating from watching another family member do negative things to their bodies.
Over-Exercising Exercising is a very healthy way to keep your body at its best. Over-exercising and disordered eating are related because they result in unhealthy views of how you see your body. When you exercise too much, it is very possible you can get injuries. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, there are many physical consequences you can get that include strained hamstrings, ripped tendons, knee trauma, and stress fractures. Exercise should be done within your own limits and lifestyle.