Eating disorders affect more than 30 million Americans and much more youth worldwide. These disorders can affect people of any age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, body shape, and weight. There is no single known cause for eating disorders.
Who is at risk of an eating disorder?
Eating disorders have high comorbidity with other mental health diagnoses, including anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. For example, 48-51% of people with anorexia nervosa, 54-81% of people with bulimia nervosa, and 55-65% of people with binge eating disorder are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Among U.S. females in their teens and 20’s, the prevalence of clinical and sub-clinical Anorexia Nervosa may be as high as 15%. In a large study of 14- and 15-year-olds, dieting was the most important predictor of a developing eating disorder.
From 1999 to 2009, the number of men hospitalized for an eating disorder-related cause increased by 53%.
What are the different types of eating disorders?
There are four main types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia nervosa. People with anorexia severely restrict calories to the point of starvation. There is an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of their body image. They may refuse to eat at all or only eat tiny amounts of food that have few calories.
- Bulimia nervosa. People diagnosed with bulimia nervosa binge on large quantities of food, then force themselves to vomit. They may also exercise compulsively and take laxatives to help rid their body of the calories they’ve eaten. People diagnosed with bulimia nervosa continue this cycle of binging and purging and may also excessively restrict calories in between binges.
- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). Some people are not overly concerned with their weight or body image and may not be able to consume enough calories to stay healthy. These are not simply picky eaters; their restrictive eating can lead to serious medical consequences in ways that are very similar to anorexia and bulimia.
- Binge-eating disorder. This is also known as compulsive overeating. People diagnosed with binge-eating disorder consume excessive amounts of food without purging. They often eat uncontrollably despite feeling full. People diagnosed with binge-eating disorder may feel guilty or ashamed after a binge and go on an extreme diet as a result. Binge eating can occur in people of any weight.
What are the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders?
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, body image, and/or dieting.
- Fluctuations in weight (both up and down).
- Refusing to eat certain foods or whole food categories (e.g., no carbohydrates, no dairy).
- Development of abnormal, secretive, extreme, or ritualized food or eating habits.
- Eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness.
- The disappearance of a large amount of food.
- Intense fear of weight gain.
- Loss of menstrual period in women.
- Extreme mood swings.
- Skipping meals or eating small portions.
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals.
- Abuse of laxatives, diet pills, or diuretics.
- Dizziness or fainting.
- Fear of eating after a scary experience with food (e.g., choking, vomiting).
- Excessive exercise.
Find a mental health provider
Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.
Text “NEDA” to 741741
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMA) www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)