Eating Disorders

About Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex conditions that emerge from biological, psychological, and social factors. While eating disorders manifest themselves in symptoms related to disordered eating and body image concerns, they are about more than food, body shape or weight. Eating disorders are often are used to help regulate painful emotions, decrease anxiety, cope, and feel in control.

Over time, eating disorders can damage self-esteem and body-esteem and lead to mental and physical health complications, chronic illness, disability, and poor quality of life. Outside of opioid dependence, eating disorders have the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness.

For information and resources about preventing eating disorders, please see our Prevention page.

  • Restriction of food intake leading to a significantly low body weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image
  • 3rd most common chronic illness in girls ages 15-19. It affects approximately 1 percent of women and .3 percent of men

Learn more about Anorexia from the National Eating Disorders Association.

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating which include:
    • Eating separately in a certain amount of time (within a 2-hour period) large amounts of food.
    • A feeling of being out of control during an episode
  • Repeated behavior in order to prevent weight gain (purging, e.g. self-induced vomiting).
  • The binge eating and purging behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months.
  • Self-esteem is heavily influenced by body shape and weight.

 Learn more about Bulimia Nervosa from the National Eating Disorders Association.

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food, but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes.
  • Feelings of strong shame or guilt regarding the binge eating.
  • Indications that the binge eating is out of control, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of shame about the behavior.

Learn more about Binge Eating Disorder from the Binge Eating Disorder Association or the National Eating Disorders Association.

  • Presence of an eating or feeding disturbance, e.g.,
    • Apparent lack of interest in eating/food
    • Avoidance based on the sensory features of food (e.g., texture)
    • Concern about aversive consequences of eating (e.g., choking, vomiting)
  • Manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs
  • And associated with one or more of the following:
    • Significant weight loss or failure to achieve expected weight gain milestones
    • Significant nutritional deficiency
    • Dependence on supplementary feeding to sustain adequate intake
    • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning

 Learn more about Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder from the National Eating Disorders Association

  • A feeding or eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment, but does not meet the criteria for any other above eating disorder.
  • Examples include:
    • Atypical anorexia nervosa (weight is not below normal)
    • Bulimia nervosa (with less frequent behaviors)
    • Binge eating disorder (with less frequent occurrences)
    • Purging disorder (purging without binge eating)
    • Night eating syndrome (excessive nighttime food consumption)

Learn more about other feeding or eating disorders from the National Eating Disorders Association.