Overview of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders involve a disturbance of eating or of behavior related to eating, typically including
For unusual eating behavior to be considered a disorder, the behavior must continue for a period of time and cause significant harm to the person's physical health and/or ability to function at school or work or negatively affect the person's interactions with other people.
Eating disorders include
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness, a distorted body image, an extreme fear of obesity, and restriction of food consumption, leading to a significantly low body weight. People with anorexia nervosa restrict their intake of food, but they may also binge eat, then compensate by purging (for example, by making themselves vomit or using laxatives). People who have the disorder may restrict their food intake to the point where their health is harmed. Although anorexia means loss of appetite, many people with anorexia nervosa do not lose their appetite until they are very emaciated.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is characterized by eating very little food and/or avoiding eating certain foods without the concern about body shape or weight that is typical in people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Usually, people with this disorder are extremely picky about food and types of food. For example, they may avoid foods that are a certain color, consistency, or odor. Some people are afraid of possible adverse consequences of eating such as choking or vomiting.
Binge-eating disorder is characterized by eating unusually large amounts of food—much more than most people would eat in a similar time under similar circumstances. People feel a loss of control during and after binge eating, and are distressed by these episodes. Binge eating is not followed by purging or other attempts to compensate for the excess food eaten.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by repeated episodes of rapidly eating large amounts of food, followed by attempting to compensate for the excess food consumed. For example, people may make themselves vomit or take laxatives.
Pica is regularly eating things that are not food.
Rumination disorder is characterized by regurgitation of food after eating.
Eating disorders are more common among women, especially younger women, than among men.
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): Large nonprofit organization that provides access to online screening tools, a helpline, forums, and a variety of support groups (some virtual)
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD): Provides access to curricula and training for medical and health care professionals, as well as peer-to-peer support groups, self-help, and other services to people with eating disorders and their families
National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Eating Disorders: A clearinghouse for information on eating disorders, including statistics on prevalence, brochures and fact sheets (also available in Spanish), education and awareness campaigns, and information on relevant clinical trials