What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is any range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. 

Examples include:

Bulimia Nervosa: Self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas after binge eating; using other methods to rid yourself of calories to prevent weight gain, such as, strict dieting or excessive exercise; preoccupation with weight and body shape; distorted self-image; the feeling of being out of control during a binge-eating episode; self-esteem overly related to body image; overall purging.

-Those struggling with bulimia nervosa usually appear to be average body weight

-Many struggling with bulimia nervosa know that their behaviors are unusual and dangerous to their health

Anorexia nervosa: The name comes from two Latin words that mean nervous inability to eat; having the physical need for food but no appetite; self-starvation; a slow form of suicide; unrealistic fear of weight gain; distorted perception of body weight; total aversion to food; when body image defines your entire sense of self worth.

- Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any other mental disorder.

-1/5 of those who suffer from Anorexia will die

Other Eating Disorders Include:

-Binge Eating/COD


-Orthorexia Nervosa


2/5 Individuals have either personally had an Eating Disorder, or know someone who has.

  • As many as 10% of college women suffer from an eating disorder and as many as 25% of college-aged women engage in binging and purging as a method of managing their weight.

  • 13.5% of athletes have subclinical to clinical eating disorders.

  • Eating disorders are a daily struggle for 10 million females and 1 million males in the United States.

  • The mortality rate for people with eating disorders is the highest of all psychiatric illnesses, and over 12 times higher than that for people without eating disorders.

  • Many people who struggle with anorexia and/or bulimia also present psychiatric conditions like depression, and anxiety disorder, and the habits - restricting, binging, and purging – often develop as coping mechanisms. So, it isn't just an extreme attempt at weight loss; it's a legitimate, diagnosable (and therefore treatable) psychiatric disorder.

Common Myths about Eating Disorders:

Myth #1: Eating disorders are not serious; they are a lifestyle choice or about vanity.

  • Eating disorders are serious and potentially life threatening mental illnesses; they are not a lifestyle choice or a diet gone 'too far’.

  • Eating disorders result from multiple factors.  While body image concerns play a role in the development of an eating disorder for some people the development of an eating disorder is not related to body dissatisfaction.

Myth #2: Eating disorders are a cry for attention or a person ‘going through a phase’

  • People with eating disorders are not seeking attention. In fact, due to the nature of an eating disorder a person may go to great lengths to hide, disguise or deny their behavior, or may not recognize that there is anything wrong.               

  • There is an average of approximately 4 years between the start of disordered eating behaviors and first treatment.

Myth #3: Families, particularly parents, are to blame for eating disorders

  • There is in fact no evidence that particular parenting styles are a direct cause of eating disorders. There is, however, strong evidence that eating disorders have a genetic basis and people who have family members with an eating disorder may be at higher risk of developing an eating disorder themselves.

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