Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an extremely distorted body image and an intense fear of fat and gaining weight. Though a sufferer may be hungry they inflict weight loss by severely reducing their caloric intake. Weight loss for the person is a sign of mastery and control. The condition is more common among girls usually beginning in mid teens and has very little to do with looking good and more to do with deep rooted emotional problems and the need for an element of control.
Though this condition is more common among girls, the number of boys affected each year is continuing to rise. The condition is characterized by binge eating (or consuming a large amount of food in a short period) and self induced purging (vomiting or use of laxatives and diuretics) to avoid weight gain. Like with anorexia the sufferer has deeper underlying issues especially with regard to overwhelming emotions and loss of control. They tend to feel guilt and shame in relation to their behaviours and thereby become very secretive about their eating habits.
Binge eating is characterized by eating an excessive amount of food, often when not hungry. Normally it is to escape unwanted emotions or to fill in feelings of emptiness by enjoying high calorie foods they would normally try to refrain from. Often these sufferers are caught up in a cycle of dieting and binging, restriction and overeating. Binging can be enjoyable for the person but after a while they will feel numb which is part of the desired outcome. A sufferer often feels unable to stop even if the food no longer begins to taste. The person feels ashamed and embarrassed about the binging and loss of control and it poorly effects their self esteem. This and the additional weight gain often leads to lower feelings of self worth and hopelessness which perpetuates the cycle and sets them up for another binge.