A Brief Guide To The Most Common Eating Disorders


1371051308012In the U.S. alone, up to 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder every year. Only 1 in 10 of those people will receive treatment for the disorder, and only 35% of those individuals will receive treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.

There are many reasons why treatment rates for eating disorders are so low, but much of it comes down to the wide array of stigmas, myths, and misunderstandings about the disorders. All too often, eating disorders are underestimated, waved off as being a simple desire to be thin, or hidden for fear of being stigmatized.

Eating disorders are serious conditions that affect all aspects of a person’s life and can have severe –sometimes life-threatening – health consequences. Most importantly, anyone can have an eating disorder, no matter what age or gender.

The following is a brief summary of the most common eating disorders observed and described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). While it is by no means comprehensive, it describes the most common signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa.

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Inadequate food intake leading to unhealthy weight loss and dangerously low weight.
  • Characterized by intense fear of weight gain, obsession with weight and persistent behavior to prevent weight gain.
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image.
  • Brittle bones and frequent fractures
  • Advanced osteoporosis in old age

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Frequent episodes of consuming excessive amounts of food
  • Feeling unable to control food consumption, or feeling out of control during binge episodes.
  • Guilt or strong shame regarding eating habits and self-image.
  • Compulsive behaviors surrounding eating.
  • Eating even when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone to hide eating habits can be signs of binge eating disorder.

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Frequent episodes of consuming large amounts of food, followed by habits to prevent weight gain such as self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise.
  • A feeling of being out of control during binge-eating episodes.
  • Self-esteem highly tied to body image.
  • Purging behaviors.

Other Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are the most commonly observed eating disorders, but there are several other niche eating disorders classified by the DSM-5. These are characterized by any feeding or eating behaviors that significantly distress or impair an individual or significantly affects their health.

Examples include:

  • Purging disorder
  • Night eating disorder
  • Rumination disorder
  • Atypical anorexia nervosa (where restrictive eating behaviors occur without dangerously low weight)

This list doesn’t cover all the signs and symptoms of the three most common eating disorders, but it gives a quick glimpse into what these disorders look like.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these signs or eating behaviors, please call (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is the right path for you or your loved one.

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