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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often are long-term illnesses that may require long-term treatment.


Research & Statistics

  • National Institute of Mental Health: Statistics

    Provides prevalence statistics for various mental disorders.

  • PubMedPubMed comprises more than 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.

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Eating disorders often are long-term illnesses that may require long-term treatment. In addition, eating disorders frequently occur with other mental disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders (NIMH, 2002). The earlier these disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better the chances are for full recovery.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa People who have anorexia develop unusual eating habits such as avoiding food and meals, weighing their food, and counting the calories of everything they eat. They may exercise excessively.

Signs that someone may have anorexia include:

  • Weighing at least 15 percent below the average for height and weight group
  • Missing at least three consecutive menstrual cycles (if a female of childbearing age)
  • Having an intense fear of gaining weight
  • Refusing to maintain the minimal normal body weight
  • Believing he or she is overweight though in reality is dangerously thin

Bulimia nervosa People who have bulimia eat an excessive amount of food in a single episode and almost immediately make themselves vomit or use laxatives or diuretics (water pills) to get rid of the food in their bodies. This behavior often is referred to as the "binge/purge" cycle.

Signs that someone may have bulimia include:

  • Having at least two binge/purge cycles a week, on average, for at least 3 months
  • Lacking control over his or her eating behavior
  • Seeming obsessed with his or her body shape and weight

Binge-eating disorder People with this recently recognized disorder have frequent episodes of compulsive overeating. During these food binges, they often eat alone and very quickly, regardless of whether they feel hungry or full.

Signs that someone may have binge-eating disorder include:

  • Having at least two binge-eating episodes a week, on average, for 6 months
  • Lacking control over his or her eating behavior

Treatment for Eating Disorders

The first step in any eating disorder treatment is to restore a healthy weight for his or her height and age group. To treat the mental portion of anorexia and bulimia, psycho, behavioral, and family therapy are recommended to restore a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Effective treatment for binge eating disorder is still being researched.

Source: National Mental Health Information Center