Characteristics: intense fear of gaining weight/becoming fat; refusal to maintain body weight within the normal range; denial of seriousness of condition; body image disturbance; severe food restriction; over pre-occupation with food; restlessness; excessive exercise; perfectionism; self-deprecating comments; avoidance of family/social events; inflexibility; diminished concentration; weakness/fatigue; need for approval.
Prior to the publication of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) 5 in May 2013, the absence of menstrual cycles was required before a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa could be given.
Characteristics: repeated bingeing episodes over short periods of time; feeling of lack of control over eating behaviour; guilt and shame of bingeing episode; compensatory behaviour*; body image disturbance; fear of becoming fat; preoccupation with food; secret hoarding of food.
Bulimia can be present for years without being detected. One of the reasons for this is the fluctuation of weight. Unlike anorexia, there is no dramatic weight loss.
*compensatory behaviour (purging activity) includes excessive exercise.
Binge-eating Disorder (BED) (Compulsive Overeating)
Characteristics: episodes of bingeing (even when not hungry); feeling of lack of control over eating behaviour; guilt and shame of bingeing episode.
Binge-eating Disorder is similar to Bulimia Nervosa but without the compensatory behaviour. A bingeing episode can last for two hours plus.
Compulsive overeating is a very serious condition. It can lead to obesity which does require professional intervention.