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
- Excessive or compulsive exercising
- Absence of at least 3 consecutive menstrual periods in women
- Obsessive controlling of calories and fat even when underweight
- Unusual eating habits, such as cutting food into tiny bites
- Frequent episodes of binge eating (eating an abnormally large amount of food within 2 hours or less)
- Frequent episodes of self-induced vomiting or misusing laxatives or diuretics to prevent weight gain
- Excessive concern with body weight and shape
- Feeling out of control while binge eating
- Attempts to control weight by excessive exercising, misusing diet pills, or fasting
- Unusual eating habits, such as hoarding food and eating in secret
Binge Eating Disorder
- Frequent episodes of binge eating
- Little or no use of behaviors to control weight, such as purging, or excessive exercising or fasting
- 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?
- Treatment of health or medical problems—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. Medication 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.
- Medication —The most widely used medications 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, but there is not enough evidence to determine if they are useful.
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
American Psychiatric Association. Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 18, 2015. Accessed April 14, 2015.
Anorexia nervosa. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa. Accessed April 14, 2015.
Binge eating disorder. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder. Accessed April 14, 2015.
Bulemia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 18, 2015. Accessed April 14, 2015.
Bulimia nervosa. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa. Accessed April 14, 2015.
Shapiro JR, Berkman ND, et al. Bulimia nervosa treatment: Asystematic review of randomized controlled trials. Int J Eat Disord. 2007;40:321-336.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 04/2015 -
- Update Date: 04/14/2015 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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