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Eating Disorders: What You Need To Know, How To Spot Them & Where To Find Help

teenager eating and browsing social media. Disordered eating treatment.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Eating disorders are a serious concern that can have devastating effects on those who suffer from them. This article discusses the importance of understanding the various types of eating disorders, how to recognize signs of someone struggling with an eating disorder, and how to find help for anyone in need. Read on to learn more about this important topic.

Introduction to Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a serious and potentially life-threatening mental illness. They are characterized by an obsession with food, weight, and body image. Eating disorders can lead to severe physical and psychological consequences.

There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation and an intense fear of gaining weight. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by purging. Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating without purging.

Eating disorders can have devastating physical and psychological consequences. They can lead to severe malnutrition, organ damage, and death. Eating disorders can also cause feelings of isolation, despair, and low self-esteem. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Types of Eating Disorders

There are several types of eating disorders, each with their own unique set of symptoms and behaviors. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness and an intense fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia often restrict their food intake, purge after meals, over-exercise, and have a distorted body image. Anorexia can be deadly if not treated.

Bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia in that people with bulimia are also preoccupied with their weight and body image. However, instead of restricting food intake, people with bulimia engage in binge-eating followed by purging through vomiting or the use of laxatives. Bulimia can also be deadly if not treated.

Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. People with binge-eating disorder lose control of their eating and eat large amounts of food even when they’re not physically hungry. Binge-eaters often feel ashamed and embarrassed about their behavior and often try to hide it from others. While binge-eating disorder does not lead to death like anorexia or bulimia, it can still cause serious health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

There are a number of common signs and symptoms associated with eating disorders. These can include:

- Unhealthy preoccupation with food, weight and body image

- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat

- Self-esteem that is heavily reliant on body weight and shape

- Frequent dieting or yo-yo dieting

- Disordered eating habits, such as binge eating, purging or restrictive eating

- Excessive exercise routines

- Irritability, mood swings or depression

- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on anything other than food and weight

- Social withdrawal or isolation

If you are displaying any of these signs and symptoms, it is important to seek professional help. Eating disorders can be extremely harmful to your physical and mental health.

Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders have many different possible causes. Some may be due to a combination of genetic, psychological, and social factors.

Environmental factors: People who grow up in societies that place a high value on being thin or having a certain body type may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. This is especially true if they see people around them starving themselves or vomiting after eating.

Genetic factors: Eating disorders tend to run in families, which suggests that they may be at least partially due to genetics. However, it’s important to remember that even if someone has a family history of eating disorders, it doesn’t mean they will develop one themselves.

Psychological factors: People with eating disorders often have low self-esteem and body image issues. They may turn to food as a way to cope with negative emotions or stress. Once the behaviors associated with an eating disorder start, they can become their own reinforcing factor—the person continues them because they help them cope, even though they’re harmful in the long run.

How to Help Someone with an Eating Disorder

If you think someone you know may have an eating disorder, the best thing you can do is talk to them about it. Let them know that you’re concerned and offer your support. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and require professional treatment. There are many resources available to help people with eating disorders, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has a helpful guide with tips on how to talk to someone about your concerns. You can also call NEDA’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-931-2237 for support and information.

It’s important to remember that recovery from an eating disorder is possible. With proper treatment, many people with eating disorders go on to lead happy and healthy lives.

Treatments for Eating Disorders

There are many different types of eating disorders, and each one requires its own unique treatment plan. However, there are some general treatments that can be effective for all eating disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help people with eating disorders change their negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT has been shown to be especially effective in treating bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is another type of therapy that can help people with eating disorders improve their relationships with others. IPT has been shown to be especially effective in treating anorexia nervosa.

Family-based therapy (FBT) is a type of therapy that involves the entire family in the treatment process. FBT has been shown to be especially effective in treating adolescent patients with anorexia nervosa.

Nutritional counseling is an important part of treatment for all types of eating disorders. A registered dietitian can help you develop a healthy relationship with food and your body.

Medication may also be prescribed as part of treatment for certain types of eating disorders. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers are commonly used to treat patients with eating disorders.

Where to Find Help

If you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, there are many resources available to help. Here are a few places to start:

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a great resource for information on eating disorders and where to find treatment. NEDA also offers a helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Another helpful resource is the website of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED). The AED website has a directory of treatment providers around the world.

In the United States, there are also many local organizations that can help with eating disorders. A good place to start is your local chapter of NEDA or the AED.


Eating disorders are an incredibly serious issue and can have devastating effects on those suffering from them. However, understanding the signs of eating disorders, knowing where to seek help and being aware of the different types of treatment available can all be invaluable steps towards recovery. We hope this article has helped you understand more about eating disorders so that you can better spot them in yourself or another person and know where to turn for support if needed. Our therapists work with body-image issues and can assess for eating disorders in children, teens and adults. Reach out to schedule an appointment at 512-400-4247.


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