Eating Disorders

Facts About Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a group of related conditions that cause serious emotional and physical problems. When one becomes so preoccupied with food and weight issues that it’s harder and harder to focus on other aspects of life, it may be an early sign of an eating disorder.

Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, in which people will deny themselves food to the point of self-starvation; and bulimia nervosa, in which people feel out of control and binge on very large amounts of food during short periods of time, and then desperately try to rid themselves of the extra calories using forced vomiting, abusing laxatives or excessive exercise; and Binge Eating Disorder (BED), in which a person loses control over their eating and eats a very large amount of food in a short period of time, but does not attempt to purge or exercise excessively like someone living with anorexia or bulimia would. Without treatment, eating disorders can take over a person’s life and lead to serious, potentially fatal medical complications. Eating disorders can affect people of any age or gender, but rates are higher among women. Symptoms commonly appear in adolescence and young adulthood.

Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Symptoms must meet the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in order to warrant a diagnosis. Each eating disorder has its own diagnostic criteria that a mental health professional will use to determine which disorder is involved. It is not necessary to have all the criteria for a disorder to benefit from working with a mental health professional on food and eating issues.

Often a person with an eating disorder will have symptoms of another mental health condition that requires treatment. Whenever possible, it is best to identified and address all conditions at the same time. This gives a person comprehensive treatment support that helps insure a lasting recovery.

Treatment and Support for Those With Eating Disorders and Their Families

Treatments include psychotherapy, medicine, nutritional counseling and weight restoration monitoring, and support groups.

We also recommend our NAMI support groups and classes for those living with mental health conditions, as well as their families and loved ones; find a local support group run by a California affiliate.

Find out more on NAMI National’s website.

Community Voices

Stories and posts about living with or being impacted by eating disorders coming soon. Telling personal stories of recovery can be one of the most effective ways to diminish stigma and help individuals and families who are facing challenges related to mental health conditions. Submit your story for consideration.