Eating disorders

Are you afraid to eat or gain weight, even though you’re really quite hungry? Or, are you unable to stop eating or snacking and you sometimes feel so bad about this that you want to vomit? Everyone may leave food he or she doesn’t like or is unfamiliar with untouched from time to time or may, in fact, eat much too much of his or her favourite food from time to time, but if this happens too often you may suffer from an eating disorder.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating is something that we all do every day and something that we also need. It is also very normal to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is so normal that you actually almost don’t think about it. That is different, however, when you have an eating disorder. If this is the case, you think all day about what you have to eat, when you have to eat and how much you have to eat (or allow yourself to eat). And, since you spend all day thinking about food, it may be that you have less contact with your friends. Because there are various ways people think about food, there are various kinds of eating disorders.

The most common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa(anorexia): When you have anorexia, you eat a lot less than you need to develop properly and concentrate at school or do your homework properly. This causes you to be too small or too thin. In addition, you are probably afraid of gaining weight or you think you are too fat and you almost never can sit still. When you have very severe anorexia, it may even be that you occasionally faint or no longer have your period. Eating (too) little gives you a feeling of security and control.
  • Bulimia nervosa(bulimia): When you have bulimia, you are afraid of getting heavier or fat. You sometimes manage not to eat, but afterwards you are so hungry that eat a whole lot of food all at once – this is called binge eating. While binge eating, you have the feeling that you can only stop when all the food is gone. To make sure you don’t get heavier, you vomit the food you’ve eaten or use laxatives to get it out of your body as quickly as possible. Sometimes, you will also exercise excessively in order not to become heavier or fat.
  • Eating disorder not otherwise specified(EDNOS): This encompasses all eating disorders that resemble anorexia or bulimia but which are just a bit different. One example is binge eating disorder. In this disorder, the binge eating is not accompanied by vomiting, taking laxatives or exercising more. After binge eating, however, you probably feel really bad and, as a result, don’t want to do anything or see anyone.
  • Eating disorder in young children: Young children can also have problems related to eating. This may be because eating is painful, but it is also possible that they no longer want to eat because they find food disgusting.
    Read more about eating disorders in young children.

What causes eating disorders?

It is actually not known what causes eating disorders. There are, however, a few factors which make you more likely than other children to develop an eating disorder. These factors include having someone in your family with an eating disorder, being teased or feeling insecure.

How common are eating disorders?

About three out of every 1000 children in the Netherlands suffer from anorexia nervosa. Eating disorder not otherwise specified occurs most frequently, but we do not know exactly how common it is. Bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are almost unknown in children younger than 16 years of age.

Would you like to know more about the treatment of eating disorders

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