The physiology of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa

Jacalyn J. Robert-McComb, Kembra D. Albracht, Annette Gary

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Eating disorders (ED) are psychological disorders that are characterized by abnormal eating, dysfunctional relationships with food, and a preoccupation with one’s weight and shape. The incidence of EDs in women ranges from 0.5 to 3 % with the incidence increasing from 1963 to 2013. Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) recognizes two specific EDs: Anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), although there are subtypes associated with each. The DSM-IV-TR and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) have different criteria for diagnosing AN and BN. Early identification of an ED is associated with shorter duration and fewer medical complications. Yet, it is estimated that only about 33 % of AN patients and 6 % of BN are receiving proper treatment for their illnesses. Gastrointestinal upset, fluid and electrolyte imbalances are common in AN in the short term and can eventually lead to long-term complications such as, pernicious anemia, osteoporosis, and heart disease. On the other hand, BN can cause short-term adverse effects like erosion of the teeth, enlargement of the parotid salivary glands, and acidic stomachs leading to heartburn. Long-term adverse effects caused by BN are gynecological problems, hormonal disturbances, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension. Successful treatment of EDs should be managed with a team-based approach including the physician, psychologist, and registered dietitian.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Active Female
Subtitle of host publicationHealth Issues Throughout the Lifespan, Second Edition
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781461488842
ISBN (Print)9781461488835
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Genetics
  • Physiology of anorexia nervosa
  • Physiology of bulimia nervosa


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