Once people start engaging in abnormal eating behaviors, the problem can perpetuate itself.
Bingeing can set a vicious cycle in motion, for instance, as individuals purge to rid themselves of excess calories and psychic pain, then binge again to escape problems in their day-to-day lives.
Anorexia and bulimia, for example, usually are preceded by very strict dieting and weight loss.
Binge eating disorder can begin with occasional bingeing.
And binge eating disorder strikes males and females about equally.
People sometimes have eating disorders without their families or friends ever suspecting that they have a problem.In a society that continues to prize thinness even as Americans become heavier than ever before, almost everyone worries about their weight at least occasionally.People with eating disorders take such concerns to extremes, developing abnormal eating habits that threaten their well-being and even their lives.Eating disorders are also associated with other mental disorders like depression.Researchers don't yet know whether eating disorders are symptoms of such problems or whether the problems develop because of the isolation, stigma, and physiological changes wrought by the eating disorders themselves.But leaving eating disorders untreated can have serious consequences.Research has found that individuals with anorexia have a mortality rate 18 times higher than peers who don't have eating disorders, for example. Physical problems associated with anorexia, for instance, include anemia, constipation, osteoporosis, even damage to the heart and brain.Aware that their behavior is abnormal, people with eating disorders may withdraw from social contact, hide their behavior, and deny that their eating patterns are problematic.Making an accurate diagnosis requires the involvement of a licensed psychologist or other appropriate mental health expert.Research indicates that eating disorders very often go untreated.In one study (PDF, 382KB), for example, less than 13 percent of adolescents with eating disorders received treatment.