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Co-Occurring Disorders

About Eating Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Eating disorders often occur alongside a spectrum of other psychiatric and developmental disorders. While this can complicate treatment, understanding these relationships is critical to sustainable recovery.

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Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Certain eating disorders occur more often and can lead to a dual diagnosis with certain other psychiatric and developmental disorders. In general, comorbidities include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar I and II disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Cognitive disorders

Ask for help. You are not alone. Begin healing today at an eating disorder treatment center.

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What is Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)?

About Eating Disorders

What is ARFID?

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs as a result of eating or feeding disturbances such as an apparent lack of interest in food, avoidance due to the sensory qualities of food, and/or concern over adverse consequences of eating food.

These disturbances are not associated with distorted body image or body dissatisfaction, but are associated with significant weight loss or faltering growth/developmental patterns (in children and adolescents); dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements; and/or marked interference with psychosocial functioning. ARFID differs from most other eating disorders in that the physiological effects of the food are not the primary concern, in as much as the food itself is the concern for those suffering from the disorder. These disturbances cannot be better explained by a lack of food, cultural practices, or a concurrent medical condition or mental disorder.

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

Call 855-875-5812 to get help with an eating disorder.

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What are the causes of ARFID?

Like all eating disorders, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder develops over a period of time as a result of a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to and, despite common misconceptions, families, and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to ARFID that, depending on environmental influences, may or may not be awakened over the course of their lifetime. The mean age of diagnosis is 11 years; however, symptoms may present in infancy or early childhood.

For those suffering from ARFID, early treatment is paramount to a renewed healthy relationship with food and nutrition. Common causes of ARFID include:

  • Malnutrition-induced changes in physiological processes and altered hunger and fullness signals
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Genetic predisposition and societal pressures (e.g., drive for thinness)
  • Abnormal brain circuitry and weakened food-related reward pathways
  • Temperamental traits
  • Anxiety
individual looking down

What are the Signs and Symptoms of ARFID?

Being familiar with the signs and symptoms of ARFID can help you champion early intervention and recovery through ARFID treatment near you. Watch for dysregulated emotions around mealtimes, significant weight loss, and a failure to meet nutritional needs and growth trajectories. Associated disorders, or “comorbidities,” include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and cognitive disorders.

  • Weight loss and nutritional deficiencies
  • Failure to meet growth trajectories
  • Emotional dysregulation and high anxiety around mealtimes
  • Chronic abdominal pain lacking an apparent cause
  • Fears or phobias around illness, choking, or vomiting
  • Neutral or positive body image

What are the Long-Term Risks of ARFID?

ARFID can have extreme medical and physiological consequences that may or may not resolve completely during recovery.

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Delayed puberty or dysregulation of reproductive hormones
  • Impaired brain functioning and signaling
  • Weakened food-related reward pathways
  • Chronic abdominal pain, fatigue, and headaches
mother and child hugging

Is ARFID Treatment Near You an Option?

If you or a loved one are struggling with ARFID, don’t wait to reach out for help. The earlier ARFID is treated, the better the outcomes tend to be. ARFID treatment must be holistic and well-informed by the symptoms that accompany the disorder in each case that it arises, and Veritas Collaborative understands the importance of treating you as the unique person you are.

At Veritas Collaborative, we work with you to create an individualized care plan so you or your child get the right treatment at the right time. We offer a full continuum of care, which includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient, and virtual programs for children, adolescents, and adults. This allows us to provide best-in-class care and support throughout your recovery journey, even as your needs change. Our treatment programs focus on real-life skills, including hands-on nutrition and culinary experiences that you can take with you for lasting recovery. We encourage family involvement and offer family-based therapy and educational support for children and adolescents.

Ask for help. You are not alone. Begin healing today.

Get Help for ARFID

Key Takeaways about Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

What is ARFID?

ARFID is defined by an ongoing inability to fulfill proper nutritional and caloric requirements. This stems from issues related to eating or feeding, such as disinterest in food, aversion to certain textures or flavors, or worries about the negative effects of consuming food.

Unlike other types of eating disorders, ARFID doesn’t involve a skewed body image or dissatisfaction with one’s body. However, it can result in notable weight reduction, developmental delays, and social or psychological issues.

Causes of ARFID

The development of ARFID is a gradual process influenced by a mix of genetic, biological, and situational factors. There’s no singular cause, and it’s important to note that family and community support systems are not at fault.

The average age for diagnosis is around 11 years, although symptoms can appear earlier. Contributing factors may include changes induced by malnutrition, exposure to traumatic events, and societal norms.

Signs and Symptoms of ARFID

Emotional instability and heightened anxiety during meal times are typical.

Other warning signs encompass substantial weight loss, failure to achieve expected growth milestones, and unexplained chronic abdominal discomfort.

Risks and Consequences

Untreated ARFID can result in cognitive deficits, delayed onset of puberty, compromised brain activity, and other physiological complications.

Treatment and Support

Early intervention and treatment are crucial for better outcomes.

Veritas Collaborative offers a range of eating disorder treatment programs focusing on real-life skills and encourages family involvement for comprehensive care.

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Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder

About Eating Disorders

What is OSFED?

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) is characterized by eating disorder symptoms that cause significant distress and impair social or occupational functioning and/or have significant medical consequences, but do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). Though individuals with OSFED fall outside the definitions of the other major eating disorders, this diagnosis nevertheless indicates that an individual is seriously ill.

Get Help for OSFED

What causes OSFED?

Like all eating disorders, OSFED develops over a period of time as a result of a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to and, despite common misconceptions, families and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to eating disorders that, depending on environmental influences, may or may not be awakened over the course of their lifetime.

  • Altered hunger and fullness signals
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Genetic predisposition and societal pressures (e.g., drive for thinness)
  • Abnormal brain circuitry and weakened food-related reward pathways
  • Lack of environmental control and persistent, extreme stress, or minority stress

Our eating disorder treatment centers can be a place to heal and form new associations with food and your body.

peron looking forward

What to Look For

Being familiar with the signs and symptoms of anorexia can help you champion early intervention and improve recovery rates for anorexia nervosa. Things to watch for include body checking, significantly restricting food intake, and/or extreme food rigidity that allows for only small quantities of certain foods. Associated disorders, or “comorbidities,” include obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and social phobia.

  • People with anorexia often have a distorted perception of their body image and an intense fear of gaining weight.
  • Extreme food restriction, obsessive calorie counting, frequent body and weight checking, and excessive or compulsive exercise can all be signs of anorexia.
  • Hiding or throwing away food and/or skipping meals is commonly seen in people with anorexia.
  • Rigidity or obsessiveness also often accompanies anorexia, as does an intense fear of food or a specific food.
  • Cold intolerance, hair loss, and skin and nail discoloration are among the physical symptoms of anorexia.

OSFED Designations

  • Atypical anorexia nervosa: Motivated by a fear of being overweight, an individual may lose a considerable amount of weight and remain at or above normal weight for their age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health. However, all other signs of anorexia nervosa are present.
  • Bulimia nervosa (limited duration or low frequency): An individual engages in binge/purge behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa, but less than once a week and/or for less than three months
  • Binge eating disorder (low frequency and/or limited duration): An individual binges less often than typically seen in binge eating disorder
  • Purging disorder: An individual repeatedly engages in purging behaviors, but not in binging behaviors
  • Night eating syndrome: Episodes of binge eating occur at night while an individual is in some stage of sleep
An adult woman sits in a practitioner's office, appearing distressed.

Physical Symptoms of OSFED

  • Variability in body weight or significant weight changes.
  • Interruptions in menstrual cycles for females.
  • Reduced libido.
  • More frequent illnesses, hinting at a compromised immune system.
  • Evident damage from regular vomiting, noticeable as facial swelling, dental issues, and halitosis.
  • Experiences of fainting or dizziness.

Behavioral Symptoms of OSFED

  • Dieting behaviors like calorie counting, claiming new food intolerances, or avoiding certain food types.
  • Denying having eaten.
  • Social withdrawal or avoiding previously enjoyed activities.
  • Eating in isolation or covertly, avoiding others during meals.
  • Concealing or stockpiling food.
  • Purging through vomiting.
  • Chewing food and spitting it out without swallowing.
  • Visiting the restroom frequently during or after meals.
  • Increased involvement in food-related activities, such as planning and cooking, without consuming the food.
  • Obsessive actions related to food, like slicing food finely or eating very slowly.
  • Compulsive exercise, even when unwell or hurt.
  • Utilization of laxatives, enemas, diuretics, or appetite suppressants.
  • Constantly checking body appearance in mirrors or pinching body parts to check fat.

Psychological Symptoms of OSFED

  • Obsession with eating, dieting, exercise, and body image.
  • Reactivity to remarks about food, weight, diet, exercise, or body appearance.
  • Experiencing guilt, shame, or revulsion, particularly after meals.
  • Enhanced anxiety or agitation during meals.
  • Distorted body perception or unhappiness with body’s appearance or specific body parts.
  • Feelings of low self-worth, depression, anxiety, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Long-term Effects of OSFED

  • Gastrointestinal complications, including potential harm to the esophagus and stomach.
  • Constipation and diarrhea.
  • Potential kidney damage.
  • Weakening of bones leading to osteoporosis.
  • Hindered growth in adolescents.
  • Infertility in both genders.
  • Cardiac issues, such as irregular heart rhythms and hypotension.
binge-eating

Key Takeaways About OSFED

  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) is marked by eating disorder symptoms that cause significant distress and impairment but don’t fit the full criteria for other major eating disorders.
  • OSFED arises from a complex mix of genetic, biological, and environmental factors, and there isn’t a single identifiable cause.
  • Some triggers for OSFED include altered hunger and fullness signals, traumatic events, societal pressures, abnormal brain circuitry, and extreme stress.
  • OSFED has various designations, such as atypical anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa of limited duration, binge eating disorder of limited frequency, purging disorder, and night eating syndrome.
  • Early intervention and treatment for OSFED are crucial, and Veritas Collaborative offers a range of care programs tailored to individual needs.
mother and daughter with therapist

Let Us Help You Recover

If you or a loved one are struggling with OSFED, don’t wait to reach out for help. The earlier eating disorders are treated, the better the outcomes tend to be.

At Veritas Collaborative, we work with you to create an individualized care plan so you or your child get the right treatment at the right time. We offer a full continuum of care, which includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient, and virtual programs for children, adolescents, and adults. This allows us to provide best-in-class care and support throughout your recovery journey, even as your needs change. Our treatment programs focus on real-life skills, including hands-on nutrition and culinary experiences that you can take with you for lasting recovery. We encourage family involvement and offer family-based therapy and educational support for children and adolescents.

Ask for help. You are not alone. Begin healing today.

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Binge Eating Disorder

About Eating Disorders

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent binge eating episodes that are accompanied by marked distress, a sense of lack of control, and feelings of self-loathing, disgust, or guilt. These episodes involve eating, in a discrete period of time, an amount of food that is objectively larger than what most individuals would eat in a similar period of time, under similar circumstances. Binge eating episodes are associated with eating much more rapidly than normal and/or until uncomfortably full; eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry; and/or eating alone due to embarrassment about the amount one is eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, these binge episodes are not followed by compensatory behaviors.

Call 855-875-5812 to get help with an eating disorder.

If you or someone you know needs help with binge eating, reach out today.

Get Help for Binge Eating Disorder

What causes binge eating disorder?

Like all eating disorders, binge eating disorder develops over a period of time as a result of a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to and, despite common misconceptions, families and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to binge eating disorder that, depending on environmental influences, may or may not be awakened over the course of their lifetime. Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States and the most prevalent eating disorder among males. The mean age of onset for the disorder is 18 years and the vast majority of individuals who are diagnosed with binge eating disorder also struggle with psychiatric, mood, or anxiety disorders, and/or impulse control and substance use.

  • Malnutrition-induced changes in physiological processes and altered hunger and fullness signals
  • Experiencing a traumatic event may tip someone into binge eating disorder
  • Genetic predisposition and societal pressures (e.g., drive for thinness)
  • Lack of environmental control and persistent, extreme stress, or minority stress can lead to binge eating disorder
Binge Eating Disorder - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments | A daughter hugging her mother from the back

What are symptoms of binge eating disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by several symptoms, including:

  • Frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food, often quickly and to the point of discomfort.
  • A feeling of loss of control during these binge eating episodes, like you can’t stop eating or control what or how much you’re eating.
  • Eating when not hungry or eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about binge eating.
  • No regular use of unhealthy compensatory measures (such as purging) to counter binge eating.

Is depression associated with binge eating?

Yes, depression is often associated with binge eating. Many individuals with binge eating disorder experience symptoms of depression, such as feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, and a lack of pleasure in activities they once enjoyed. The relationship between depression and binge eating can be complex and bidirectional, meaning that depression can contribute to the onset or worsening of binge eating, and binge eating can exacerbate symptoms of depression. It’s important for individuals experiencing both depression and binge eating to seek professional help, as treatment may need to address both conditions.

What is compulsive overeating?

Compulsive overeating is eating an excessive amount of food but not because of hunger. 

When someone compulsively overeats, it is often an unhealthy and ineffective way of avoiding or distracting from difficult emotions or situations. Though engaging in compulsive eating behavior may provide some short-term relief, ultimately it often brings physical and emotional distress, as well as feelings of shame, anger, anxiety, or fear related to food. This blog describes compulsive overeating, including its relationship to eating disorders and its common characteristics.

Is compulsive overeating an eating disorder?

Compulsive overeating is not an eating disorder diagnosis, but instead a behavior that is present in several eating disorders, including binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa, and OSFED. Those who are affected by bulimia, for example, may engage in overeating and then purge afterward. Overeating is usually seen in BED if there aren’t any purging behaviors. Bulimia and BED both present with feelings of a lack of control around food.

A person who struggles with compulsive overeating may eat an overwhelmingly large amount of food in a short period of time, or they may “graze,” eating throughout the day even when they aren’t hungry. Compulsive eating often happens in secret, as do experiences of secretly fantasizing about food.

Once a person is engaged in compulsive overeating, the initial “high” may settle and the person may notice feelings of self-loathing, disgust, and guilt. Restriction or dieting may follow, setting up a cycle of eating disorder behaviors.

All body types can struggle with compulsive overeating. Many warning signs accompany the disordered eating behavior, such as weight gain, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorder. The experience could present medical complications, including fatigue, diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease.

What is the difference between binge eating and compulsive overeating?

Binge eating and compulsive overeating, although closely related, have distinct characteristics that set them apart. 

Binge Eating

Binge eating is typically characterized by episodes of consuming large quantities of food in a relatively short period, often accompanied by a feeling of loss of control. This form of eating is a central feature of binge eating disorder, a clinically recognized eating disorder, where individuals often experience intense feelings of guilt and distress post-binge.

Compulsive Overeating

On the other hand, compulsive overeating is a broader term that encompasses not only binge eating but also other patterns of disordered eating. It often manifests as a continuous pattern of eating large quantities of food throughout the day, not confined to specific episodes. This kind of eating often happens in secret, and individuals may find themselves constantly fantasizing or obsessing about food. The defining characteristic of compulsive overeating is the amount of food consumed and the compulsive, obsessive nature of the eating behavior. It often coexists with feelings of self-loathing, depression, and anxiety, making it a complex issue to address.

Understanding the subtle differences between binge eating and compulsive overeating can guide more targeted and effective treatment strategies, helping individuals navigate their way to recovery with a nuanced approach. Learn more about the difference between eating disorders and disordered eating

What should you look for if you worry that someone has binge eating disorder?

Being familiar with the signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder can help you champion early intervention and recovery through binge eating disorder treatment. Watch for binge eating episodes that are not associated with 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. Associated disorders, or “comorbidities,” include major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar I and II disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

  • Binge eating episodes that occur one or more times a week
  • Marked distress around binge eating episodes
  • Avoiding mealtimes and eating alone or in secret can be a sign of binge eating disorder
  • Feelings of lack of control, guilt, shame, self-loathing, or disgust around food or eating

What are the risks of binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder can have extreme medical and physiological consequences that may or may not resolve completely during recovery.

  • Chronic pain including headaches, back, and neck pain
  • Binge eating disorder can lead to diabetes and hypertension
  • In males: decreased frequency of erections and nocturnal emissions
  • In females: polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometrial cancer, and difficulty conceiving
Binge Eating Disorder - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments | mother and daughter looking at each other smiling

How can you recover from binge eating disorder?

If you or a loved one are struggling with binge eating or compulsive overeating, don’t wait to reach out for help. The earlier binge eating disorder is treated, the better the outcomes tend to be.

At Veritas Collaborative, we work with you to create an individualized care plan so you or your child with binge eating disorder get the right treatment at the right time. We offer a full continuum of care, which includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient, and virtual programs for children, adolescents, and adults. This allows us to provide best-in-class care and support throughout your recovery journey, even as your needs change. Our treatment programs focus on real-life skills, including hands-on nutrition and culinary experiences that you can take with you for lasting recovery. We encourage family involvement and offer family-based therapy and educational support for children and adolescents.

Key Takeaways

  • Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of food in a short period of time, accompanied by feelings of loss of control and distress.
  • Binge eating disorder affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, and can lead to physical, emotional, and social consequences.
  • Binge eating disorder is often accompanied by co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.
  • Treatment for binge eating disorder typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and nutrition counseling, and may involve a team of healthcare professionals at an eating disorder treatment center.
  • With appropriate treatment and support, recovery from binge eating disorder is possible, and individuals can learn to develop a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

Updated December 2023

Ask for help. You are not alone. Begin healing today.

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Bulimia Nervosa

About Eating Disorders

What Is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent binge eating episodes and persistent, inappropriate compensatory behaviors with the hope of avoiding weight gain. Binge eating episodes involve eating, in a discrete period of time, an amount of food that is objectively larger than most individuals would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances. Such episodes of bulimia are accompanied by feelings of self-loathing, disgust, or guilt and a sense of lack of control. Individuals engage in often dangerous compensatory behaviors that may include purging, fasting, compulsive exercise, and/or the use of laxatives or diuretics. Individuals with bulimia nervosa may appear healthy, even though they are very ill. Additionally, their self-concept is unduly influenced by body weight and shape.

Call 855-875-5812 to get help with an eating disorder.

If you or someone you know needs help with bulimia, get started today.

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What causes bulimia nervosa?

Like all eating disorders, bulimia nervosa develops over a period of time as a result of a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to and, despite common misconceptions, families and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to bulimia nervosa that, depending on environmental influences, may or may not be awakened over the course of their lifetime. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by bulimia nervosa.

  • Malnutrition-induced changes in physiological processes and altered hunger and fullness signals
  • Experiencing a traumatic event may tip someone into bulimia
  • Genetic predisposition and societal pressures (e.g., drive for thinness)
  • Lack of environmental control and persistent, extreme stress, or minority stress can lead to bulimia
A daughter hugging her mother from the back

What should you look for if you worry that someone has bulimia nervosa?

Being familiar with the signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa can help you champion early intervention and recovery through bulimia nervosa treatment. Watch for elusive behaviors around mealtimes, inflammation around the mouth and knuckles, exercise-routine rigidity, hiding food, and/or immediately going to the bathroom after a meal. Associated disorders, or “comorbidities,” include major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar I and II disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and substance use disorder.

  • Inappropriate conflation of body weight and shape with identity can be a sign of someone struggling with bulimia
  • Distorted body image and fear of weight gain
  • Eating alone or in secret and consistent retreats after meals is often characteristic of bulimia
  • Extreme exercise-routine rigidity, refusal to hydrate, and overuse injuries
  • Abrasions or scars on knuckles, inflammation around mouth, and burst blood vessels in eyes often accompany bulimia

What are the risk of bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa can have extreme medical and physiological consequences that may or may not resolve completely during recovery.

  • Dangerous, potentially lethal electrolyte imbalances
  • Bulimia can result in impaired decision-making and impulse control
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Tooth decay, muscle fatigue, and irregular bowel activity
  • Heart palpitations, low pulse, and low blood pressure may be consequences of bulimia
  • In males: decreased frequency of erections and nocturnal emissions
  • In females: polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometrial cancer, amenorrhea, difficulty conceiving, and if pregnant, increased risk for miscarriage and postpartum depression

How does purging (a prominent behavior of bulimia nervosa) affect the mouth?

Vomiting brings acids that are normally confined to the stomach into contact with the soft tissues in the mouth. This can irritate saliva glands and cause swelling around the jaw and cheeks.

Additionally, painful sores on the roof of the mouth, inner cheeks, inner lips, throat, and tongue are also common. Such sores can swell up and become infected.

Dry mouth may also develop, which, when combined with mouth sores, can be incredibly painful. Plus, dry mouth can make it harder for someone with bulimia to enjoy food because it can change food’s texture and taste.

Continual vomiting can also seriously damage teeth. Stomach acid corrodes the enamel that protects teeth. It also discolors teeth, leaving them with a yellow tint. When enamel wears away, a cavity could appear. Subsequent vomiting will then be even more detrimental to teeth that are already vulnerable due to cavities. It’s a vicious cycle. Ultimately, if a cavity isn’t filled, the tooth may loosen and fall out.

The purging associated with bulimia nervosa puts the gums at risk, too. Gingivitis often develops from frequent vomiting. This is when the gums become sensitive, red, inflamed, and likely to bleed during brushing or even from contact with tough foods. If gingivitis persists long enough, the gums may become so unhealthy that they can no longer anchor teeth effectively.


How does bulimia nervosa affect the heart and kidneys?

The frequent purging associated with bulimia nervosa often causes dehydration; furthermore, purging disrupts the balance of electrolytes in the body and puts undue strain on the heart. These factors increase the risk of heart attack or seizure.

People with an eating disorder (such as bulimia nervosa), are five times more likely to have a heart attack and six times more likely to have coronary artery disease than those without an eating disorder. The strain of repeated purging can even lead to an irregular heartbeat. Prolonged dehydration, too, has long term effects: urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure, which could be fatal.

How does the repeated vomiting of bulimia nervosa affect the endocrine system?

Purging can interfere with the proper flow of hormones throughout the body. This can mean comparatively minor problems such as fatigue; however, hormone imbalances can also impede libido and disrupt menstrual cycles. Females may stop regularly releasing eggs. Males may experience a reduction or outright cessation of sperm production. Drastic hormonal changes brought about by continual vomiting can lead to infertility.

The purging characteristic of bulimia nervosa is especially dangerous during pregnancy. Dire complications can occur: miscarriage, premature birth, breech birth, birth defects, higher risk of cesarean delivery, and stillbirth. After birth, the mother may struggle with breastfeeding and weight gain, which in turn can cause stress that only exacerbates the cycle of bingeing and purging.

mother and son hugging and smiling

How can you recover from bulimia nervosa?

If you or a loved one are struggling with binge eating and purging, don’t wait to reach out for help. The earlier bulimia is treated, the better the outcomes tend to be.

At Veritas Collaborative, we work with you to create an individualized care plan so you or your child with bulimia get the right treatment at the right time. We offer a full continuum of care, which includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient, and virtual programs for children, adolescents, and adults. This allows us to provide best-in-class care and support throughout your recovery journey, even as your needs change. Our treatment programs focus on real-life skills, including hands-on nutrition and culinary experiences that you can take with you for lasting recovery. We encourage family involvement and offer family-based therapy and educational support for children and adolescents.

Key Takeaways

  • Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise.
  • The exact causes of bulimia nervosa are unknown, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.
  • Bulimia nervosa can have serious physical and psychological consequences, including electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, depression, and anxiety.
  • Treatment for bulimia nervosa typically involves a combination of therapy, medication, and nutrition counseling.
  • Recovery from bulimia nervosa is possible with appropriate help at an eating disorder treatment center, and it is important to seek help as soon as possible if you or someone you know is struggling with this disorder.

Updated March 2023

Ask for help. You are not alone. Begin healing today.

Get Help for Bulimia Nervosa

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Anorexia Nervosa

About Eating Disorders

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an inability to eat enough food to maintain weight and/or growth trajectories; exceptionally low body weight; an obsessive concern with weight gain; and a distorted body image. Anorexia nervosa has two subtypes and can involve both severe restriction of food intake and binge/purge behaviors. The median age of onset is 12 years old and falling; the disorder has been diagnosed in individuals as young as five. Anorexia nervosa can be life-threatening, with mortality often associated with cardiac complications and suicide.

Call 855-875-5812 to get help with an eating disorder.

If you or someone you know needs help with anorexia, reach out today.

Get Help for Anorexia Nervosa

What causes anorexia nervosa?

Like all eating disorders, anorexia nervosa develops over a period of time as a result of a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to, and despite common misconceptions, families, and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to anorexia nervosa that may or may not be awakened by environmental influences over the course of their life.

  • Biological factors such as genetics, altered brain circuitry, and weakened food-related pathways can all contribute to the development of anorexia. Malnutrition can also induce changes in physiological processes that regulate hunger and fullness signals.
  • Environmental factors including cultural pressures to conform to appearance standards, weight-based comments and teasing, and media messages can result in an increased risk of anorexia in those susceptible.
  • Psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, stressors, low self-esteem, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and trauma are among the contributing factors that could tip a vulnerable population group into developing anorexia.
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What should you look for if you worry that someone has anorexia nervosa?

Being familiar with the signs and symptoms of anorexia can help you champion early intervention and improve recovery rates for anorexia nervosa. Things to watch for include body checking, significantly restricting food intake, and/or extreme food rigidity that allows for only small quantities of certain foods. Associated disorders, or “comorbidities,” include obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and social phobia.

  • People with anorexia often have a distorted perception of their body image and an intense fear of gaining weight.
  • Extreme food restriction, obsessive calorie counting, frequent body and weight checking, and excessive or compulsive exercise can all be signs of anorexia.
  • Hiding or throwing away food and/or skipping meals is commonly seen in people with anorexia.
  • Rigidity or obsessiveness also often accompanies anorexia, as does an intense fear of food or a specific food.
  • Cold intolerance, hair loss, and skin and nail discoloration are among the physical symptoms of anorexia.

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What are the risks of anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa can have extreme medical and physiological consequences that may or may not resolve completely during recovery.

  • Anorexia can lead to serious health risks such as electrolyte imbalances, congestive heart failure, and sudden death, as well as gastrointestinal issues like constipation, bloating, and gastroparesis.
  • Osteoporosis, easy bruising, and the growth of fine white hair all over the body (lanugo) are commonly associated with anorexia.
  • Anorexia can impair a person’s decision-making abilities and impulse control.
  • Anorexia can also impact a person’s sexual health and result in decreased frequency of erections and nocturnal emissions, as well as amenorrhea, difficulty conceiving, and increased risk for miscarriage, low birth weight, and postpartum depression.

How can you recover from anorexia nervosa?

If you or a loved one are struggling with anorexia, don’t wait to reach out for help. The earlier anorexia is treated, the better the outcomes tend to be.

At Veritas Collaborative, we work with you to create an individualized care plan so you or your child with anorexia get the right treatment at the right time. We offer a full continuum of care, which includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient, and virtual programs for children, adolescents, and adults of all genders. This allows us to provide best-in-class care and support throughout your recovery journey, even as your needs change. Our treatment programs focus on real-life skills, including hands-on nutrition and culinary experiences that you can take with you for lasting recovery. We encourage family involvement and offer family-based therapy and educational support for children and adolescents.

Key Takeaways

  • Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental illness that can have life-threatening consequences if not treated promptly and effectively.
  • The physical symptoms of anorexia nervosa can include extreme weight loss, malnutrition, and organ damage.
  • Anorexia nervosa is often accompanied by psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • Effective treatment for anorexia nervosa involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the illness.
  • Early intervention is crucial for successful recovery from anorexia nervosa, and family and social support can play a critical role in the recovery process.

Updated March 2023

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About Eating Disorders

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 six 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 can be life-threatening, but they don’t have to be. Help us change the conversation around eating disorders and champion honest discussion, compassion, and early intervention.

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  • Anorexia Nervosa

    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

    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 (BED)

    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 (OSFED)

    Though individuals with OSFED fall outside the definitions of the other major eating disorders, this diagnosis nevertheless indicates that 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 (ARFID)

    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-Occurring 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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