Eating Disorders,

Providing Awareness During Eating Disorder Awareness Month

Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC

Eating disorders are the disruption of eating design that transforms a negative relationship with food, causing poor physical and psychological health. It is a psychological condition that is unhealthy, leading to psychological conditions, and many people become obsessed with unhealthy eating habits. Eating disorders are treatable and frequently pair with depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. It is crucial if you suffer from eating disorders, you recognize it and seek treatment. Those who suffer from eating disorders may suffer from physical ailments and health complications, including:

  • Heart conditions
  • Kidney Failure
  • Death

Several major eating disorders affect 4% of women and 1.5% of men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The major eating disorders are as follows:

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder dealing with extreme obsession with diet and weight loss. Many who have anorexia have a distorted sense of body image. They tend to starve and excessively exercise. It is closely related to perfectionism and depression. Often, there are obsessive food habits; they are secretive and can have antisocial behaviors. If the condition becomes extreme, hospitalization with forced feeding may be recommended, which can cause legal and ethical concerns.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where people binge eat and purge, which is usually done by self-induced vomiting. However, laxatives, diuretics, fasting, or obsessive exercising could be involved as well. It commonly begins during adolescence and is difficult to identify because individuals who have bulimia tend to be secretive about their eating habits. Often, those who suffer from bulimia nervosa tend to suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Many who have bulimia are overweight and have a fear of gaining more weight.

Binge Eating

Binge eating disorder is associated with extreme overeating, and people who binge eat tend to be overweight or obese. Often, people who binge eat will eat alone because they are ashamed and or embarrassed when they eat. This behavior must occur two days a week for six months to be considered a disorder

Avoidant/restrictive food intake

ARFID, or Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, is when people avoid or restrict food. Often, people with this disorder are trying to prevent negative experiences from the past and are not interested in food. They may have sensory issues, and texture and smell could bother them.


Pica refers to eating nonfood items like soap, hair, or paper.

Rumination Disorder

Rumination refers to repeatedly regurgitating food after eating, and additionally, previously swallowed food into the mouth typically to be rechewed and spit out.


Food is essential for survival. The biological and cultural environment can influence how individuals view food. Social and interpersonal pressures can factor into people who have eating disorders. Body image concerns and personality also factor into being affected. Perfectionism and people who tend to be obsessive, as well as those affected with depression and anxiety, may have difficulties with eating disorders. Eating disorders can be complex. Someone affected by eating disorders may have made minor changes that spiral out of control, causing unhealthy patterns. When struggles occur with eating disorders, they may have started just eating smaller or larger portions, and eventually, these patterns become more than they bargained for, causing the urge to eat more or less to take over their daily lives and thought processes. Maybe an individual didn’t like how they looked and started feeling bad about their body shape or weight, causing them to be compulsive about their appearance. Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence and early adulthood. However, onset during childhood or as a later adult is possible.


Often, people hide their eating disorders from their families for quite a while. Emotional and physical symptoms occur in those suffering from eating disorders. Often, those who are affluent are more likely affected by eating disorders than their nonaffluent counterparts. Many diagnosed with an eating disorder are woman in their 20s. However, anyone can be affected.

It may be a complex topic to bring up to someone suffering from an eating disorder; however, catching it early can allow the person with an eating disorder to seek help and work on recovering from the disease. Signs and symptoms of eating disorders include but are not limited to:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Refusing to eat
  • Rigid eating schedules and routines surrounding mealtime
  • Only eating a specific food
  • Only eating at a particular time
  • Going to the restroom after meals
  • Mental health symptoms could be exacerbated
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Avoiding friends or things they used to love to do
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety

Often, it takes years for people to seek out help. Treatment comes in a variety of ways; many people receive outpatient therapy. However, extreme cases require hospitalization. Treatment can be complicated. Life-threatening problems can be associated with eating disorders, which require hospitalization. Often, people may need forced nourishment provided by a multidisciplinary team, which includes therapists, medical doctors, specialists, and dieticians. Treatment may consist of the following:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Nutrition Education

Family-based therapy

Recovering from an eating disorder could take years, and in some cases, there are relapses. Recovery is when a person does not meet diagnostic criteria and has healed physically and emotionally. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, there are local therapists who would like to help you find success by providing tools, social support, and assistance in helping you find new eating habits. Treatment can be complicated. Life-threatening problems can be associated with eating disorders, which require hospitalization. Often, people may need forced nourishment provided by a multidisciplinary team, which includes therapists, medical doctors, specialists, and dieticians.


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