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About Eating Disorders

We're changing the conversation.

Eating disorders are not a choice. Despite common misconceptions, eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, body shape or weight, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. They are complex, psychiatric illnesses stemming from a variety of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to or to blame. Eating disorders impact over 30 million persons in the United States alone.

What Is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder diagnosis is a mental and physical health crisis that disrupts personal, family, and community functioning for individuals as young as 6 years old. Many individuals will suffer for years or tens of years before seeking treatment—and even then may seek help only for the medical consequences, which not all providers will accurately attribute to an eating disorder. As such, eating disorders are often misdiagnosed. Early detection and intervention are critical components of a complete recovery. Unfortunately, culturally sanctioned misconceptions about food, weight, and diets, combined with the stigma associated with seeking treatment for any mental health disorder, often delay diagnosis and impede access to care. Eating disorders are lethal, but they don’t have to be. Help us change the conversation around eating disorders and champion honest discussion, compassion, and early intervention.

Anorexia Nervosa About Eating Disorders

Persons with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight.

What to look for:

Frequent body/weight/mirror checking, severely restricted food intake, and/or extreme diet rigidity that only allows for small quantities of certain foods

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Bulimia Nervosa About Eating Disorders

Individuals with bulimia nervosa may appear healthy, even though they are very ill, and are unduly influenced by body weight and shape in terms of self-evaluation.

What to look for:

Elusive behaviors around meal times, extreme exercise-routine rigidity, inflammation around an individual's mouth and knuckles, and delayed wound healing

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Binge-Eating Disorder About Eating Disorders

Individuals with binge-eating disorder may experience an array of extreme, negative emotions around food, mealtimes, and eating.

What to look for:

Binge-eating episodes that are not associated with inappropriate compensatory behaviors, but are associated with feelings of lack of control or self-loathing and occur, on average, at least once a week for three months

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Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder About Eating Disorders

Though individuals with OSFED fall outside the definitions of the other major eating disorders, this diagnosis nevertheless indicates than an individual is seriously ill.

What to look for:

A preoccupation with weight, food, appearance, and/or calorie counting; sudden/frequent mood changes; frequent standing, pacing, and/or fidgeting; and/or excessive participation in physical activity

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Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder About Eating Disorders

Individuals with ARFID may experience extreme emotional dysregulation and anxiety around meal times, have a fear of vomiting or choking, and/or undergo thorough testing for chronic abdominal pain with no satisfactory findings.

What to look for:

Dysregulated emotions around meal times, significant weight loss, and/or a failure to meet nutritional needs and growth trajectories

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Co-Occuring Disorders About Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often occur alongside a spectrum of other psychiatric and developmental disorders. Taking an individual's primary diagnosis into account when considering treatment is critical to their long-term recovery.

What to look for:

Regular displays of emotions that do not fall within a generally acceptable range of emotive responses

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Additional Resources

Whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder yourself or seeking help for a loved one, knowledge is a powerful tool on the road to recovery. Please choose one of the links below to see articles, tips, and news items we think will be helpful to you.

More Information & Next Steps

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