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Help With Eating Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Eating disorders are illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become pre-occupied with food and their body weight.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Sep 07, 2018
Eating Disorders in Teens: Tips for Parents

Eating disorders involve persistent eating behaviors that are harmful to a person’s physical and mental health. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, can also negatively impact a person’s relationships and daily activities

  • Dec 12, 2017
Online Mental Health Screenings: A Potential First Step

Several organizations provide brief online screenings for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health conditions. More than one million people took screenings through the Mental Health America site alone in 2016.

  • Nov 30, 2017
Direct-to-Consumer Advertising Linked to Changes in Medication Use Among People with Serious Mental Illness

People with serious mental illness exposed to direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of medications are more likely to stop taking their medications than those not exposed to the advertising, according to new research published in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

Upcoming Events
Oct
2018
01
Find local events from the National Eating Disorders Association
  • Mon,  Oct  01 - Wed,  Oct  31
  • 10:15 AM - 10:15 AM

National Eating Disorders Association

Oct
2018
01
Find campus based events and support from Active Minds
  • Mon,  Oct  01 - Wed,  Oct  31
  • 10:15 AM - 10:15 AM

Active Minds

Oct
2018
01
Find local events and support from Mental Health America
  • Mon,  Oct  01 - Wed,  Oct  31
  • 10:15 AM - 10:15 AM

Mental Health America

Are there some common warning signs of eating disorders?

There is no one sign of an eating disorder, however there are red flags. These can include excessive “fat, weight or calorie talk,” a pattern of eating a limited choice of low-calorie food or a pattern of occasional binge eating of calorie-dense foods. People with anorexia nervosa may excessively exercise or excessively stand, pace or fidget. Affected individuals may severely limit the amount of calories they consume or may avoid weight gain following meals by inducing vomiting or abusing laxative, diuretic and diet pills. Feeling self-conscious about one’s eating behavior is common. Affected individuals often avoid social eating settings and eat alone. More

What causes an eating disorder?

There is no single cause of an eating disorder. We know that genetics play a large role, but genetic vulnerability is only part of the story. Environment plays a role too, especially in triggering onset, which often occurs in adolescence. Pressure to diet or weight loss related to a medical condition can be the gateway to anorexia nervosa or bulimia. For those who are genetically vulnerable to anorexia nervosa, once they lose the first five to 10 lbs, dieting becomes increasingly compelling and rewarding. Looked at another way, if eating disorders were the result solely of social pressure for thinness we would expect eating disorder rates to have increased as obesity has in the past few decades, yet anorexia nervosa and bulimia remain relatively rare and often cluster in families. More

How can I best help and support someone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder?

Treatment for an eating disorder is challenging. It involves interrupting behaviors that have become driven and compelling. Recovery takes a team, which includes family, friends and other social supports, as well as medical and mental health professionals. Be empathic, but clear. List signs or behaviors you have noticed and are concerned about. Help locate a treatment provider and offer to go with your friend or relative to an evaluation. Be prepared that the affected individual may be uncertain about seeking treatment. Treatment is effective, many are able to achieve full recovery and the vast majority will improve with expert care. Treatment assists affected individuals to change what they do. It helps them normalize their eating and reframe the irrational thoughts that sustain eating disordered behaviors. Food is central to many social activities and the practice of eating meals with supportive friends and family is an important step in recovery. More

We tend to hear about young women and eating disorders, but are there other groups of people that are more often affected by eating disorders?

Eating disorders do not discriminate and can affect anyone. Although they are most common in young women, it is not unusual for older women to have an eating disorder. Some have had one all their life, others were only mildly affected until some life event triggers clinical worsening – a stressor, physical illness or a co-occurring psychiatric illness, such as depression or anxiety. Recent evidence strongly suggests that anxiety disorders, especially social anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive personality traits increase individual vulnerability to an eating disorder. Eating disorders occur in men too. An estimated 10 percent of people with anorexia nervosa and bulimia and a third or more of people with binge eating disorder are male. More

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About the Expert:

Angela Guarda, M.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Director, Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program
The Johns Hopkins University

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Helena’s Story

Helena was a 16-year-old girl who lived at home with her parents and younger sister. Throughout her teenage years, she had been a normal weight but she worried a great deal about her body weight and shape. She often compared her body weight with that of other girls and women she met or saw — and then judged herself as too heavy.

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Editor's Choice

JULY 30, 2108

Recognizing Eating Disorders in Time to Help

New York Times

Experts say an eating disorder should not be considered normal adolescent behavior, and they urge adults to try to stop the problem before it becomes entrenched.

JULY 17, 2018

For Years, Mike Marjama Dreamed of Playing Major League Baeball. Here's Why He decided to quit

Men's Health

Mike Marjama hustled hard on the minor league baseball circuit for seven years before finally landing his dream job as a Major League Baseball catcher for the Seattle Mariners. But after playing in only 15 games Marjama abruptly announced his retirement. For Marjama, 28, becoming an ambassador for NEDA marks a full circle in his life. As an adolescent in California, Marjama developed anorexia and bulimia for five years before undergoing inpatient treatment. Now, it's his hope that he can be a source of strength for men.

JULY 6, 2018

The Biggest Warning Signs of the 3 Major Types of Eating Disorders

Prevention

The body positivity movement has more women than ever embracing their shape at any size, but eating disorders are still more common than you might guess. About 20 million women (and 10 million men) in the United States will develop an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Resources

Additional Resources and Organizations

National Eating Disorders Association

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institute on Mental Health

Screening for Mental Health, Inc.

Overeaters Anonymous

Renfrew Center Foundation

Eating Disorder Information and Referral Center\

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
 January 2017