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Fact Sheet: Lesser-Known Eating Disorders

The following is a list and description of the lesser-known eating disorders that affect people of all ages. All the information for this sheet was obtained from the Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc., website.

Anorexia athletica: A person with this disorder repeatedly exercises beyond the requirements for good health. They are often a fanatic about weight and diet. They steal time to exercise from work, school, and relationships. People with this condition focus on the challenge and forget that physical activity can be fun. They define self-worth in terms of performance and are rarely or never satisfied with athletic achievements. They do not savor victory and instead push on to the next challenge immediately. People with this condition justify their excessive behavior by defining themselves as a "special" elite athlete.

Body dysmorphic disorder: A person with this disorder sees themselves as extremely ugly. They are shy and withdrawn in new situations and with unfamiliar people. Two percent of the people in the United States are affected by BDD, and females and males are affected at equal rates. Seventy percent of the cases occur before the age of eighteen. Sufferers are excessively concerned about appearance, in particular perceived flaws of face, hair, and skin. They are convinced these flaws exist in spite of reassurances from friends and family members who usually can see nothing to justify such intense worry and anxiety. BDD sufferers are at elevated risk for despair and suicide. In some cases they undergo multiple, unnecessary plastic surgeries. This is a treatable disorder if accurately diagnosed by a physician and mental health care provider.

Muscle dysmorphia (bigorexia): Sometimes called bigorexia, muscle dysmorphia is the opposite of anorexia nervosa. People with this disorder obsess about being small and undeveloped. They worry that they are too little and too frail. Even if they have good muscle mass, they believe their muscles are inadequate.

Orthorexia nervosa: People with orthorexia nervosa feel superior to others who eat "improper food, which might include non-organic or junk foods and items found in regular grocery stores, as opposed to health food stores. Orthorexics obsess over what to eat, how much to eat, how to prepare food "properly," and where to obtain "pure" and "proper" foods. Eating the "right" food becomes an important or even the primary focus of life. One's worth or goodness is seen in terms of what one does or does not eat. Personal values, relationships, career goals, and friendships become less important than the quality and timing of what is consumed.

Night-eating syndrome: Most of the day's calories are eaten late in the day or at night. Someone with this disorder has little or no appetite for breakfast. He or she delays their first meal for several hours after waking up and is often upset about how much was eaten the night before.

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