Glossary of Medical Terms

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are conditions that cause a person to have unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to food and body image. Some people with eating disorders severely restrict their food intake (anorexia nervosa), while others eat excessively (binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating). They may also vomit, take laxatives, or exercise excessively to try to prevent weight gain (bulimia nervosa).

The cause of eating disorders is not clear, but experts believe that it is related to a number of physical, psychological, cultural, and social factors. Eating disorders are most common in teenage girls and young women, but they can occur at any age and in both sexes.

People who have eating disorders may develop health problems, such as dehydration and malnutrition. Eating disorders also increase a person's risk of other health problems related to a poor diet. These other health problems can include menstrual period changes, thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) and, in severe cases, heart and other organ problems.

Eating disorders are treated primarily with counseling. Sometimes, medicines also are used. 

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