National Institute of Mental Health
U.S. Department of HealtH anD HUman ServiceS • national institutes of Health
What are eating disorders? ____________________________________________ 1 What are the different types of eating disorders? ________________________ 2 Anorexia nervosa _________________________________________________ 2 Bulimia nervosa __________________________________________________ 3 __________________________________________________
Binge-eating disorder _____________________________________________ 4 How are eating disorders treated? _____________________________________ 4 Treating anorexia nervosa _________________________________________ 4 Treating bulimia nervosa __________________________________________ 5 __________________________________________
Treating binge-eating disorder _____________________________________ 6 How are males affected? ______________________________________________ 6 ______________________________________________
What is being done to better understand and treat eating disorders? ______ 7 ______
Citations ____________________________________________________________ 8 For more information on eating disorders ______________________________ 10 ______________________________
What are eating disorders?
An eating disorder is an illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, the urge to eat less or
more spiraled out of control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape may also characterize an eating disorder. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life.1,2 Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders affect both men and women. For the latest statistics on eating disorders, see the NIMH website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/index.shtml. It is unknown how many adults and children suffer with other serious, significant eating disorders, including one category of eating disorders called eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). EDNOS includes eating disorders that do not meet the criteria for anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Binge-eating disorder is a type of eating disorder called EDNOS.3 EDNOS is the most common diagnosis among people who seek treatment.4
Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses. They frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. Other symptoms, described in the next section can become life-threatening if a person does not receive treatment. People with anorexia nervosa are 18 times more likely to die early compared with people of similar age in the general population.5
Eating Disorders • 1
What are the different types of
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by:
• Extreme thinness (emaciation)
•� A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
• Intense fear of gaining weight
•� Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight • Lack of menstruation among girls and women
• Extremely restricted eating.
Many people with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight, even when they are clearly underweight. Eating, food, and weight control become obsessions. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, portion food carefully, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Some people with anorexia nervosa may also engage in binge-eating followed by extreme dieting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and/or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.