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  • Updated 06.25.2023
  • Released 08.28.2000
  • Expires For CME 06.25.2026

Eating disorders: neurologic manifestations



The hallmark of eating disorders is abnormal eating patterns or weight control behaviors. Excessive focus on and altered perception of body shape and weight is integral to these disorders. Eating disorders are associated with disrupted psychosocial functioning and impaired physical health, including neurologic complications (05; 10; 68).

Historical note and terminology

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) recognizes six feeding and eating disorders: those that were included in DSM-IV include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder; the three disorders added in DSM-5 were avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder, pica, and rumination disorder (Tables 1 to 6) (05). With the exception of pica, at a specific point in time only one of these diagnoses can be assigned, emphasizing the mutually exclusive nature of this classification scheme.

Historical accounts have revealed that forms of voluntary self-starvation have existed for thousands of years. It was not until 1873, however, that Gull and Lasegue presented complete medical descriptions of anorexia nervosa, leading to the disorder being accepted as a true disorder in the late 1800s (18; 35; 09). Binge eating disorder was first recognized in 1959 in a paper written by Albert Stunkard (63). He had associated eating episodes with night-time eating, but the term is now used irrespective of the timing of excessive eating. Until recently, boys and men had been historically underrepresented in eating disorder research (11). Additionally, studies have highlighted the global nature of the high prevalence of eating disorders (57).

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