Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, etc.)

Jul 07, 2023

Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that often require medical and psychological intervention. They are usually characterized by an obsession with food, body weight, and shape. The most common types include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Each of these disorders has unique symptoms, but all can have devastating health consequences if left untreated.

anorexia bulimia

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, commonly referred to as anorexia, is characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat. Some people with the disorder also exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives, and/or binge eat.

anorexia nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia may secretly binge — eating large amounts of food with a loss of control over the eating — and then purge, trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. To get rid of calories and prevent weight gain, people with bulimia may use different methods. For example, they may regularly self-induce vomiting or misuse laxatives, weight-loss supplements, diuretics or enemas.

bulimia nervosa

Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food and feel unable to stop eating. Almost everyone overeats on occasion, such as having seconds or thirds of a holiday meal. But for some people, excessive overeating that feels out of control and becomes a regular occurrence crosses the line to binge-eating disorder.

binge-eating disorder

The Impact of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders have serious physical and emotional consequences. Aside from the abnormal eating behaviors, these disorders often involve severe distress or concern about body weight or shape, and they can affect a person's health, mood, and relationships. They can also be associated with severe complications, and may even be life-threatening if not treated appropriately.

Physical Consequences

Eating disorders can cause serious health problems related to inadequate nutrition, overeating, or the self-induced vomiting that characterizes bulimia. Some of the physical effects include weakness, fatigue, sensitivity to cold, reduced immune functioning, irregular heart rhythms, long-term heart, kidney, and liver damage, and even death.

eating disorder impact

Emotional and Social Consequences

People with eating disorders often experience a range of emotional and social consequences. These may include social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and issues related to body image and self-esteem. Additionally, eating disorders can interfere with relationships and daily activities, such as school or work.

Treatment and Recovery

It's important to seek treatment early for eating disorders. People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and medical complications. Treatment can help return people to healthier eating habits and reverse some of the complications of eating disorders. Some treatments involve counseling, nutrition education, medical monitoring, and sometimes medications. Recovery from an eating disorder can take months to years; it's a journey that requires ongoing commitment, but with the right support and treatment, recovery is achievable.

eating disorder recovery