In Singapore, the number of patients seeking help for eating disorders is steadily rising. While females make up the majority of those affected, males are also susceptible to such disorders. There are 3 primary types of eating disorders, namely: anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
The Eating Disorders Programme from the Department of Psychiatry at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) explains the difference.
1. Anorexia nervosa (severe restriction of food intake)
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by an intense fear of becoming fat. People with anorexia severely restrict food and fluids mainly because of a distorted body image and low self-esteem. They normally weigh less than what is developmentally expected for their age and height. There is an intense preoccupation with food and body size.
Most individuals suffering from this eating disorder do not realise how underweight and undernourished they are in spite of comments from other people. They see themselves as overweight, and they constantly deny that they have a problem or that they are too thin. Even after reducing to dangerously low weights, these individuals will still convince themselves that they need to lose more weight, as they have not gotten rid of the perception of being fat.
They develop unusual eating habits such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating them in small quantities, or carefully weighing and portioning food. Anorexics repeatedly check their body weight. Many engage in other techniques to control their weight such as intense and compulsive exercise, or purging by means of vomiting and abuse of laxatives, enemas and diuretics.