Eating disorders include intense emotions and abnormal behaviors around food and weight. They are associated with serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences. Eating Disorders affect more than 10 million people in the United States and those rates are continuing to climb. Despite the fact that eating disorders affect four times as many people as breast cancer, most people are not knowledgeable about eating disorders, their causes, consequences, or the warning signs that can indicate that someone needs help. You can find out more about each of the following eating disorder diagnoses by clicking on the links:
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Binge Eating Disorder
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
- Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
It is important to understand that eating disorders are mental illnesses, and they are not simply a lifestyle choice. Individuals with eating disorders often find themselves stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts and dangerous behaviors that can perpetuate the disorder and lead to depression, social isolation and interpersonal conflicts. Regardless of which eating disorder someone struggles with, it’s important for loved ones and support people to understand that the disordered eating behaviors can become the individual’s only way of coping with discomfort, disappointment, intense emotions or any type of chaos and life stressors. Many individuals with eating disorders also struggle with negative body image. The eating disorder may be providing a sense of structure, comfort, distraction or success when other aspects of life feel chaotic or out of one’s control. Because the eating disorder provides this temporary feeling of control or comfort, it can be difficult for individuals to stop the disordered eating behaviors without appropriate treatment.
Eating disorders can cause a lot of suffering and often involve a great deal of shame and secrecy. People with eating disorders will often go to great lengths to hide or disguise their symptoms from their family and friends which, unfortunately delays detection, treatment and recovery. One of the best things you can do to help a loved one is educate yourself about eating disorders and be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with them.