Eating Disorders

Guidance for Patients, Families, and Friends

Publication Date: July 18, 2022
Last Updated: May 25, 2023

INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

  • Eating disorders are medical conditions characterized by frequent and problematic eating behaviors as well as distressing thoughts and emotions about food.
  • Behaviors commonly associated with eating disorders include restrictive eating or avoidance of certain foods, binge eating, purging by vomiting or laxative misuse, and compulsive exercise.
  • Eating disorders are serious conditions that can reduce overall quality of life. Also, if left untreated, the physical and mental side effects of eating disorders can last for decades, or even a lifetime.
  • Types of eating disorders include: anorexia nervosa (anorexia), bulimia nervosa (bulimia), binge-eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), pica, rumination disorder, and other specified feeding and eating disorders. This guide will focus on three of the most common: anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.
  • Current estimates show eating disorders will affect between 2 to 3 out of every 100 people in the United States at some point during their lifetime (roughly 6 to 10 million people). Many other people may have features or symptoms of an eating disorder but not have an official diagnosis.
  • Eating disorders are more common in women, and often appear in teenage years and early adulthood. However, eating disorders can affect any person at any time, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, weight, size, or body shape.
  • Recovery from eating disorders is a gradual process unique to each person. When identified and treated, patients are able to change their relationship with food, have improved health, and enjoy a good quality of life.
  • This guide will help patients and their families understand how eating disorders are diagnosed, the treatment options that are available, and what can be done to achieve the best possible outcomes.