Introduction: Eating disorders are common, complicated, and highly morbid illnesses. These are disorders characterized by extreme disturbances in eating behaviors that result in either a reduction in caloric intake, extreme over-eating, or extreme distress about body weight or shape. Eating disorders have become one of the most medically consequential psychiatric conditions, because individuals engaged in eating disorder behaviors are, by definition, altering normal physiology in the pursuit of various goals. These goals usually include weight loss or prevention of weight gain – but could also include regulation of mood and anxiety. The manipulation of normal physiological functions that occurs in eating disorders can have lethal effects on multiple organ systems, including the cardiac, neurologic, metabolic, and gastrointestinal systems. The alteration in normal caloric intake can also adversely impact pre-existing or more chronic, but nevertheless problematic, impairments of the musculoskeletal and endocrine systems. In addition, eating disorders commonly co-occur with, and can complicate, the management of more easily recognized psychiatric conditions such as mood and anxiety, personality, and substance use disorders and suicide. Early diagnosis and proper management will help to limit the impact of these disorders; acute care providers can improve their role in decreasing morbidity and mortality of eating disorders with a greater understanding of the diagnostic criteria and management of these conditions.
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