What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are devastating mental illnesses that affect an estimated 20 million American women and 10 million American men sometime during their lives. Approximately 85% to 95% of the people who suffer from the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are women.

Although eating disorders revolve around eating and body weight, they are often more about control, feelings and self-expression than they are about food. Women with eating disorders often use food and dieting as ways of coping with life's stresses. For some, food becomes a source of comfort and nurturing, or a way to control or release stress. For others, losing weight may start as a way to gain the approval of friends and family. Eating disorders are not diets, signs of personal weakness or problems that simply will go away without proper treatment.

Eating disorders occur in all socioeconomic and ethnic groups. They usually develop in girls between ages 12 and 25. Because of the shame associated with this complex illness, many women don't seek treatment or get help until years later. Eating disorders also occur in young children, older women and men, but much less frequently.
Robyn  Hussa
Most people don't realize that there are FOUR types of eating disorders. They are: Binge Eating Disorder (or BED), Anorexia Nervosa (or ANOREXIA), Bulimia Nervosa (or BULIMIA) and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (or EDNOS).
All four types of eating disorders are serious, biological illnesses and in most cases require treatment by specialists in the field of eating disorders.
One myth that we help to eradicate in many clinical training programs as well as in schools is that a person can just make his or herself "eat" if they want to... or "stop eating" (in the case of a binge eater). They cannot.
Eating disorders are not a matter of will.
They are serious and extremely complex biologically based illnesses. 
The good news is that we know that individuals can enjoy a full recovery from eating disorders the earlier they get into treatment.
Learn more at
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
An eating disorder is a disease characterized by eating extremely small quantity of foods or severely overeating. Severe concern about body weight or body shape may also be a sign of an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia nervosa and binge-eating.
Eating disorders are medical illnesses that involve extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors focusing on weight and food issues. These issues can significantly impact the health status of affected individuals and, in some cases, may be potentially life-threatening.

The three categories of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders not otherwise specified. This last group includes binge-eating disorder and night-eating syndrome. Individuals who may have any of these eating disorders should be evaluated and treated by a team of professionals that can address their individual medical, emotional and nutritional requirements.

Eating disorders are characterized by an obsession with food and weight. People with eating disorder have difficulty focusing on other things. If you have an eating disorder, you may not even be able to control how little or how much you eat. There are three main types of eating disorders - bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). Although they can be seen as trivial disorders, they are actually very serious and can result in long-lasting damage to your body or even death. It is important for you to get help, such as therapy, as soon as possible if you suspect that you or a loved one has an eating disorder.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.