Starvation is one of the most painful experiences for the human body. Starvation brought on by the self as an effort to achieve a certain image can only be defined as a mental disease and that is exactly what occurs in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Anorexics are defined as those who restrict their eating and lose at least 1/3 of their body weight. Bulimics are those who binge and/or purge food frequently. Eating disorders are the most lethal of all mental illnesses. These diseases are not simple diets or frequent crash dieting (although those may be symptoms) but psychological disorders that go way beyond the calorie counting and weight loss. Eating disorders can start out slow, usually as a diet to lose a few pounds or as an effort to be healthier, but can spiral out of control.
Anorexia had been documented since the 1890’s, and is more than just a social pressure to be thin. Cultural influences are not the only cause of the disorder and studies have shown that genetic causes may be at play here. In history, the very first case of what seems to be symptoms of anorexia appeared in the 12th century in Saint Catherine of Siena who denied food to herself for spiritual purposes. Since then, many cases have popped up from the 17th century onwards. The history of this disease, which is the main cause of death in women 15-20 in the United States, shows that it goes far beyond the influences of high fashion magazines. Bulimia had been dated all the way back to the Middle Ages with the upper-class vomiting during meals so that they could consume more food.
There are other types of eating disorders besides Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa such as Binge-Eating Disorder and the two newest disorders, Orthorexia and EDNOS, an abbreviation for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Orthorexia is the preoccupation with “health foods”, in this disorder the victim has an obsession with foods that are natural foods, super foods or organic. EDNOS is the disorder for those who have the signs and symptoms of Anorexia or Bulimia but do not fit the criteria for the diseases. Anorexia and Bulimia are quite similar on the mental level, but the outer appearances of the victims vary. One stark difference is that bulimics cannot resist the urge to eat, whereas an anorexic can go a longer time without food. This means bulimics can stay at a healthy weight for their age and height through their bingeing and purging, but anorexics lose weight and tend to look more frail, making their disorder less complicated to spot. Binge-eating disorder is the compulsive need to eat more and more food for emotional reasons rather than physical. Nearly 30% of those diagnosed with obesity have this disorder. Binge-eating is the only eating disorder whose victims do not fear food.
In popular Western culture, eating disorders are linked with models, fashion and celebrities but the stunning and rising numbers reveal the vastly ignored fact that eating disorders affect...