Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses. They frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but also may develop during childhood or later in life. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, and their variants, all feature serious disturbances in eating behavior and weight regulation. They are associated with a wide range of adverse psychological, physical, and social consequences.
Eating disorders are serious behavior problems. They can include severe overeating or not consuming enough food to stay healthy. They also involve extreme concern about your shape or weight. Eating disorders are more than just going on a diet to lose weight or trying to exercise every day. They represent extremes in eating behavior and ways of thinking about eating — Types of eating disorders include:
- Anorexia nervosa, in which you become too thin, but you don’t eat enough because you think you are fat
- Bulimia nervosa, which involves periods of overeating followed by purging, sometimes through self-induced vomiting or using laxatives.
- Binge-eating, which is out-of-control eating
Women are more likely than men to have eating disorders. Eating disorders affect both genders, although rates among women and girls are 2½ times greater than among men and boys. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but also may develop during childhood or later in life.They usually start in the teenage years and often occur along with depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Eating disorders can lead to heart and kidney problems and even death.
Having an organized approach to eating disorder treatment can help you manage symptoms, regain a healthy weight, and maintain your physical and mental health. Getting help early is important. Eating disorder treatment also involves addressing other health problems caused by an eating disorder, which can be serious or even life-threatening if they go untreated for long enough. If an eating disorder doesn’t improve with standard treatment or causes health problems, you may need hospitalization or another type of inpatient program.
No one is really sure what causes eating disorders, although there are many theories about it. Many people who develop an eating disorder are between 13 and 17 years old. This is a time of emotional and physical changes, academic pressures, and a greater degree of peer pressure.The pressure to be like celebrity role models with the fact that bodies grow and change during puberty. Many people with eating disorders also can be depressed or anxious, or have other mental health problems.
Fortunately, eating disorders can be treated. People with eating disorders can get well and gradually learn to eat well and more like their family and friends again. Eating disorders involve both the mind and body. So medical doctors, mental health professionals, and dietitians will often be involved in a person’s treatment and recovery. Learning to be comfortable at your healthy weight is a process. It takes time to unlearn some behaviors and relearn others. Be patient, you can learn to like your body, understand your eating behaviors, and figure out the relationship between feelings and eating — all the tools you need to feel in control and to like and accept yourself for who you are.