Eating Disorders Information


Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions characterized by severe disturbances in eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Individuals with these disorders often exhibit an intense preoccupation with food, body weight, and body shape, which can significantly impair physical health and psychosocial functioning. The range of eating disorders includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, each with unique symptoms but sharing a common disruption in eating habits and extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape.

Anorexia nervosa is marked by an inability to maintain a healthy body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image. Individuals with anorexia typically restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat, leading to a significantly low body weight. They may also engage in excessive exercise as a method of weight control. The physical health consequences are severe and can include infertility, bone loss, problems with the cardiovascular system, and, in extreme cases, death.

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by behaviors that attempt to prevent weight gain, such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives, or excessive exercise. These episodes often occur in secret and are usually accompanied by feelings of shame or guilt. The cycle of binging and purging takes a significant toll on the body, resulting in gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances that can lead to cardiac and neurological issues.

Binge eating disorder, which has been recognized more recently as a distinct category, involves recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress, or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States and is associated with obesity and its resultant health complications, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The etiology of eating disorders is believed to be multifactorial, involving a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Genetically, individuals may have an increased susceptibility to developing an eating disorder due to family history. Psychologically, factors such as perfectionism, body dissatisfaction, and poor self-esteem are common. Sociocultural influences, including societal pressures that emphasize thinness and an ideal body shape, also play a critical role.

Treatment for eating disorders generally involves a comprehensive approach, including medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, and therapy. Psychological counseling is crucial and may include cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be particularly effective. Family-based therapies are also a critical component, particularly for adolescents with these disorders. Recovery from an eating disorder is possible with the right treatment approach, but it can be a long and challenging process, requiring both medical and emotional support.

The serious health risks associated with eating disorders highlight the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. Continued research and education are vital to improve treatment outcomes and to provide effective support for those struggling with these complex disorders.


The following online tests are available to assess various aspects related to Eating Disorders.