On their website, The Eating Disorders Association, a British organization dedicated to providing information on the diseases, defines eating disorders as "complex illnesses where both the disturbed eating pattern as well as the psychological aspects need to be treated." l "FNote1" Eating disorders can affect people of any age, male or female, with no regard to race or ethnicity. They often are the signal of deeply ingrained self-esteem problems which cause the person to perceive a negative image of themselves which is often far worse than the reality.
Eating disorders generally result when people have negative self-images of themselves. A girl, for example, may feel that she is too heavy, and so may develop an eating disorder as a result of this image, regardless of whether or not she is actually overweight. Eating disorders can be life threatening for males and females and usually "include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues." l "FNote2" .
There are many different kinds of eating disorders. Each has its own symptoms and is a sign of a different psychological perception of the person's self. It is important to distinguish between eating disorders and what the Harvard Eating Disorders Center calls "disordered eating". Whereas eating disorders are an illness which results from constant worrying about image and diet, disordered eating is merely a bad habit which is the result of not knowing the proper foods and eating habits. Eating disorders often lead to drastic loss of weight or change in physical appearance, but disordered eating more often results in short term, less substantial changes in weight. Finally, while eating disorders often require specific medical treatment by professionals with an understanding of the specific disease, disordered eating can usually be treated simply by educating the person and making them more conscious of the requirements for a healthy diet.