Eating disorders: A problem that goes beyond food


Eating disorders, also known as eating disorders, are serious illnesses characterized by significant disturbances in a person’s eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, weight, and body shape can be signs of an eating disorder.

These disorders can affect physical and mental health and, in some cases, can be life-threatening. However, eating disorders can be treated. Learning more about them can help you spot the warning signs and seek treatment early.

Who is at risk for an eating disorder?

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial or ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and sexes. Although eating disorders often appear during adolescence or early adulthood, they can also appear during childhood or later in life (ages 40 and up).

Remember: People with eating disorders can appear healthy and yet be extremely ill.

The exact cause of eating disorders is not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors can increase the risk of having this type of disorder.

What are the most common types of eating disorders?

The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. If you or someone you know has the symptoms listed below, it could be a sign of an eating disorder. Call a healthcare provider immediately for help.

What is anorexia nervosa?

People with anorexia nervosa avoid food, severely restrict it, or eat only very small amounts of certain specific foods. Even when these people are dangerously underweight, they may still look overweight. They can also weigh themselves over and over again.

There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa: restrictive and purgative.

Restrictive: People with restrictive anorexia nervosa have severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they eat.

Purgative: People with purgative anorexia nervosa also place severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they eat. In addition, they can present bingeing and purging behaviors (such as vomiting, use of laxatives and diuretics, etc.).

What is the nervous bulimia?

People with bulimia nervosa have recurring episodes in which they eat unusually large amounts of food. They often feel a loss of control over these binge episodes. These binges are followed by behaviors to compensate for overeating, such as forceful vomiting, overuse of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these. Unlike people with anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa can maintain a healthy weight or be overweight.


People with binge eating disorder lose control over what they eat. Unlike bulimia nervosa, binge-eating episodes are not followed by purging, over-exercising, or fasting. For this reason, people with binge eating disorder are often overweight or obese.


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