Eating Disorders

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights. National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

While no one knows for sure what causes eating disorders, a growing consensus suggests the cause is a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

eating disorder Risk Factors

Risk factors for all eating disorders involve a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural issues. These factors may interact differently in different people, so two people with the same eating disorder can have very diverse perspectives, experiences, and symptoms. Still, researchers have found broad similarities in understanding some of the major risks for developing eating disorders. 

Types of eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, a distorted body image.

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a cycle of binge eating accompanied by compensating behaviors such as self-induced vomiting that are designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

Binge eating disorder, the most common eating disorder in the United States, is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food; a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress, or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), previously referred to as “selective eating disorder,” involves limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed but does not involve any distress about body shape or size, or fears of fatness.

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