This paper presents an overview of eating disorders, including definitions, clinical criteria for appropriate diagnosis, and a discussion of the potential for increased risk for eating disorders in special populations of female athletes. This is followed by a discussion of the prevalence of eating disorders in normal and athletic populations. From this discussion, it seems clear that female athletes in endurance or appearance sports are at an increased risk for disordered eating. Finally, the paper focuses on related disorders—a triad associating eating disorders, menstrual dysfunction, and bone mineral disorders. It is clear that secondary amenorrhea is associated with malnutrition and disordered eating. Further, bone mineral disorders are related to menstrual dysfunction. Disordered eating may represent the initiating factor of this triad.
Jack H. Wilmore is with the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712.