Eating Disorders: When Food and Weight Take Control
What Exactly Are Eating Disorders?
How Common Are Eating Disorders?
What Are the Symptoms of Eating Disorders?
- Excessive weight loss or lack of normal weight gain, often to the point of starvation
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body image—for example, seeing oneself as too fat even when underweight
- Obsessive controlling of calories and fat even when underweight
- Unusual eating habits, such as cutting food into tiny bites
- Excessive or compulsive exercising
- Absence of at least three consecutive menstrual periods
- Frequent episodes of binge eating (eating an abnormally large amount of food within two hours or less)
- Feeling out of control while binge eating
- Excessive concern with body weight and shape
- Unusual eating habits, such as hoarding food and eating in secret
- Frequent episodes of self-induced vomiting or misusing laxatives or diuretics to prevent weight gain
- Attempts to control weight by excessive exercising, misusing diet pills, or fasting
Binge Eating Disorder
- Frequent episodes of binge eating
- Little or no use of behaviors to control weight, such as purging, excessive exercising or fasting, although may try dieting
- Feeling guilty, depressed, or disgusted with oneself because of the binge eating and concern about being overweight
- Eating large amounts when not hungry
- Eating rapidly and until uncomfortably full
What Causes Eating Disorders?
How Are Eating Disorders Treated?
- Health or medical problems treated—First, any medical problems are treated. Then, the psychological issues related to the eating disorder are explored. Nutrition counseling is provided to help reestablish healthy eating and meal planning practices. Medicine may also be prescribed. Support groups for people with eating disorders and for their family and friends can also be helpful.
- Psychotherapy—Several different types of psychotherapy may be used in individual, group, or family sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help to develop healthy ways of thinking and patterns of behavior, especially with food and relationships. Other kinds of psychotherapy focus on underlying psychological issues, such as self-esteem. In some cases, a combination of more than one type of psychotherapy is the most successful approach.
- Medicine—The most widely used medicines for eating disorders are antidepressants. They are particularly helpful with bulimia and binge eating disorder because they treat mood-related symptoms and suppress the craving to binge. In cases of anorexia, they may help decrease the obsessions and anxiety related to eating.
National Eating Disorders Organization http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Overeaters Anonymous https://www.oa.org/
Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca/
National Eating Disorder Information Centre http://www.nedic.ca/
Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated July 2009. Accessed July 24, 2009.
Eating disorder statistics. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/. Accessed May 12, 2011.
Shapiro JR, Berkman ND, Brownley KA, Sedway JA, Lohr KN, Bulik CM. Bulimia nervosa treatment: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Int J Eat Disord. 2007;40:321-36.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2011 -
- Update Date: 05/12/2011 -