Monday, April 15, 2024

Are Eating Disorders A Mental Illness

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What Is An Eating Problem

An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult.

Many people think that someone with an eating problem will be over or underweight. People might also think that certain weights are linked to certain eating problems. Neither of these points are true.

Anyone can experience eating problems. This is regardless of age, gender, weight or background.

Food plays a significant part in our lives. Most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Sometimes you might:

  • have cravings
  • try to eat healthier.

Changing your eating habits like this every now and again is normal.

But if you feel like food and eating is taking over your life, it may become a problem.

What Are The Signs Of An Eating Disorder

People with eating disorders typically hide their distress. This makes it hard for others to detect the warning signs. But, there are some things you can pay attention to. Below are some signs of a possible eating disorder. 

  • Intrusive thoughts of food or body image.
  • Inability to focus on other tasks.
  • Trouble having meals with others.
  • Feeling guilty for being hungry. 
  • Dysfunctional pattern between eating and emotions.
  • Difficulty functioning on a daily basis. 

What Are Some Examples Of Nimh Research

Eating disorders tend to run in families, so one example of NIMH-supported research involves the study of human genetics. Researchers are working to identify DNA variations that are linked to an increased risk of developing eating disorders. This research may help develop strategies for early detection.

Brain imaging studies are also providing a better understanding of eating disorders. For example, researchers have found differences in patterns of brain neurocircuitry and activity in people with eating disorders in comparison with healthy people. This research may lead to new or improved ways to diagnose and treat eating disorders.

Eating Disorders Inclusion As A Mental Illness In The Dsm Has Advantages

First and foremost, recognizing eating disorders as a mental illness adds legitimacy. As a result, eating disorders are less likely viewed as a rite of passage, fad, choice, or attention seeking maneuver.

Another plus of recognizing eating disorders as a bona fide mental illness is earlier diagnosis and treatment.

What Are Eating Disorders

Mental Health: Facts About Eating Disorders [Infographic ...

An eating disorder is a mental illness. You will use food to try to manage your feelings. If you have an eating disorder you will have an unhealthy relationship with food. This may be eating too much or too little food. Or eating a lot of food in one sitting. You may become obsessed with food and your eating patterns if you have an eating disorder.

Anyone can develop an eating disorder. It doesnt matter what your age, gender, cultural or racial background is.

What Can I Do To Manage My Symptoms

You can learn to manage your symptoms through self-care. Self-care is how you manage your daily routine, relationships and feelings. The healthcare professional who is working with you should give you advice about self-care.

The following website links have information about how you can deal with symptoms of anorexia, bulimia and BED.

  • Anorexia Self-Help

What If I Am Not Happy With My Treatment

If you are not happy with your treatment you can:

  • talk to your doctor about your treatment and ask for a second opinion,
  • get an advocate to help you speak to your doctor,
  • contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service and see whether they can help, or
  • make a complaint.

There is more information about these options below:

Second opinion

If you are not happy with your treatment you should talk to your doctor and see if you can resolve the situation with them. You can refer to the NICE guidelines if you feel your doctor is not offering you the right treatment. See below for more about this.

You may feel that your treatment should be changed. If your doctor does not agree you could ask for a second opinion. You are not legally entitled to a second opinion, but your doctor might agree to it if it would help with treatment options.


An advocate is independent from the NHS. This means that the NHS doesnt employ them. Advocacy services are free to use. Usually a charity will run an advocacy service. An advocate is there to support you.

They can help to make your voice heard when you are trying to sort problems. They may be able to help you to write a letter to the NHS or go to a meeting with you.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder And How Is It Related To Eating Disorders

Co-occurring mental health disorders are usually the underlying cause of an eating disorderfor example, body dysmorphic disorder. Often beginning as early as 12 years old, body dysmorphia is an obsessive disorder consisting of extreme negative feelings toward your physical appearance, contributing to low self-worth. What can begin as lack of self-esteem and poor body image issues can spiral into the obsessive preoccupation with certain body parts that characterizes dysmorphia. Over time, these feelings can become an intense dislike for ones body that is unrelated to weight. Rather, young adults with body dysmorphic disorder focus on perceived imperfections, which causes intense emotional distress and can be a factor in developing an eating disorder.

How Can I Get Help

It can be a good idea to see a general practitioner  who can help support you with your physical health needs as well as assist you in accessing the right mental health support.  You can make an appointment to chat to someone at your local headspace centre  , or find online and phone support at . If youre at school or university, you might be able to access a counselling or student wellbeing service.

Helping Someone With An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders can be quite scary to observe in someone you care about because of the distress of seeing their body change and their self-destructive behaviours. You may not know what to do or say, but your support can make a big difference in their recovery.Talk to the person openly and honestly, but avoid making any comments about how they look. Even well-meaning comments on their appearance can be taken the wrong way and set back the recovery process. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and listen without judgement. It is important to remember that nobody chooses to have an eating disorder, and parents are not to blame.Eating disorders can have serious health consequences, so support the person you know in connecting with a health professional as soon as possible. Other helpful actions you can take include: learning more about eating disorders from the below, encouraging the person to stay connected with family and friends, and engaging them in enjoyable social activities that do not involve food or excessive physical activity.Find out more about caring for someone with a mental health condition on our  page.

What Do We Know About Eating Disorders In Teens

The teenage years are a time of rapid physical, mental and social change and can present both opportunities and challenges. Some teens are able to manage this time of transition very well while others may struggle to adapt.

Teens who develop eating disorders are showing signs of a personal struggle.

All teens have worries and concerns. However, teens with an eating disorder may be experiencing worries and fears that intensify and progressively take over their lives.

They may be worried about not having friends, how to manage the demands of school and part-time work, their appearance, a family separation, dating, bullying, future plans, etc. These worries may cause them to feel that they are “not good enough” which may make them anxious, angry or sad. They may become stressed and feel they are losing their self-confidence and sense of control over their lives.

Is Eating Disorders A Mental Illness

Eating Disorderare eating disorders a mental illness

Many wonder if a person can be suffering from an eating disorder and not know it. I believe the answer is a resounding yes. An eating disorder is a mental illness that starts within the mind. A person with an eating disorder does not realize that what they are doing is wrong. Oftentimes people who suffer from anorexia and bulimia will deny that there is anything wrong.


In America, anorexia and bulimia are the most common eating disorders. Each of these is a serious illness that has deadly consequences. Anorexia can cause death by asphyxiation and malnutrition. Bulimia can cause permanent damage to the brain, heart and other organs. Anorexia also causes a stunted growth in its victims. There are many other complications that come with this disorder including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and low self esteem.


One of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders is that you have to have a lot of weight to have a good diet. This couldnt be further from the truth. Most people that are suffering from an eating disorder are extremely thin. The only reason they have gained the weight is due to obsessive compulsive behaviors that force them to eat even when they are not hungry.






Similarities Between Eating Disorders And Mental Illnesses

The Facts About Eating Disorders [INFOGRAPHIC]

Psychologists and psychiatrists specializing in eating disorders do not differentiate between mental illness and anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating or unspecified eating disorders. Assessments detailing physical and psychological symptoms of patients admitted to eating disorder treatment centers include symptoms supporting a diagnosis of mental illness, such as:

  • Anxiety/panic/agitation
  • Depression, suicide ideation and feelings of hopelessness
  • Inability to control obsessing over food, weight and appearance
  • Inability to keep a job or stay in school because of an overwhelming preoccupation with their weight
  • Body dysmorphia

In severe eating disorder cases, an eating disorder therapist may need to prescribe antipsychotic medications to patients who present with delusional thinking, paranoia and/or hallucinations upon the patient entering an eating disorder recovery program. Before eating disorders can be addressed through intense psychotherapy, underlying mental health issues must be recognized and treated appropriately. Eating disorders are not a product of someones out-of-control vanity. It is a mental illness emerging from deep-seated psychological dilemmas rooted in genetic and biopsychosocial factors affecting patients during childhood.

Find Help For Eating Disorders

While eating disorders can be very complex and hard to treat, many effective treatment interventions are currently helping many people fully recover from their eating disorders. If youd like to learn more about how Center for Discovery is treating eating disorders and co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression and trauma, please reach out to us for more information or fill out the form on this page. We are here to help.

Why Are Eating Disorders Considered Mental Illnesses

Many people are surprised to learn that eating disorders have little to do with food and more to do with mental health. Sadly, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Long-term eating disorders also increase the risk for osteoporosis, reproductive problems and heart and kidney damage. 

Like other mental health disorders, eating disorders can be successfully treated. But, they are complex and may involve a genetic component as well as co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. This is why intensive, dual diagnosis treatment is required. 

What Causes Eating Disorders

We do not know exactly why someone develops an eating disorder. Some people believe that eating disorders develop because of social pressures to be thin. Social pressures could be social media and fashion magazines. Others believe it is a way to feel in control.

Most specialists believe that eating disorders develop because of a mix of psychological, environmental and genetic factors. Psychological factors could be:

  • being vulnerable to depression and anxiety,
  • finding stress hard to handle,
  • worrying a lot about the future,
  • being a perfectionist,
  • having obsessive or compulsive feelings, or
  • a fear of being fat.

Environmental factors could be:

  • criticised for your body shape or eating habits,
  • having difficult family relationships, or
  • having a job or hobby where being thin is seen as ideal. Such as dancing or athletics.

Genetic factors could be:

  • changes in the brain or hormone levels, or
  • family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse.

Eating Disorders Are Mental Illnesses

In fact, they have been recognized by the DSM since the 1980s.  The current DSM, edition 5, now recognizes 8 categories of feeding and eating disorders. The tricky thing about eating disorders, is that they also are very medical in nature.

Many of the behaviors associated with each of the eating disorder diagnoses can have dangerous impacts on both physical and psychological well-being. As such, it is important that anyone living with an eating disorder receives care from a full team of multi-disciplinary professionals including a therapist, dietitian, medical doctor and/or a prescriber if necessary.

If you or someone you love are experiencing thoughts and/or behaviors that are impacting your mental and physical health, you deserve specialized eating disorder support. Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that are both psychological AND medical in nature. As such, they often require interventions that focus on stabilizing both the body and the mind.

Here are a few things to look for if you are concerned that you or someone you love may be living with an eating disorder.

  • Change in behavior around food.

Have you or someone you love stopped going to social gatherings where food is being served? Are you making excuses to eat alone or purposely isolating yourself during meal-times?

  • Intrusive or repetitive thoughts about food intake, food planning and/or food consumption.
  • Emotions associated with food consumption.
  • Physical changes
  • Lab abnormalities
  • Substance Abuse And Eating Disorders Reinforce Each Other

    The effects of substance abuse and eating disorders may interact with each other in ways that reinforce or worsen each issue.

    • Both substance abuse and eating disorders can cause feelings of guilt in a personthose suffering from an eating disorder may use substances as an attempt at self-medication to manage feelings of anxiety or depression.

    In addition, bulimia has been found to have a stronger association with substance abuse than anorexia, perhaps due to the binging habits of people suffering from bulimia.

    • Because people with anorexia use restrictive eating behavior, they may not be as willing to ingest other substances.

    Help For People With Eating Disorders

    With specialised treatment, recovery from an eating disorder is possible. The earlier someone with an eating disorder begins treatment, the greater the likelihood of a shorter recovery process and better the health outcomes. It is important to remember recovery is a unique journey for each person. Individuals may share common, yet different experiences, goals and outcomes.

    If you suspect that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, it is important to seek help immediately. The Butterfly Foundation National Helpline is a good place to start. They can provide a referral to someone with specialised knowledge in eating disorders.

    Treatment may need to involve a number of different health professionals, for example, GPs, psychologists, dietitians and other allied health professionals. This is because best treatment will take into consideration the mental, physical, emotional, behavioural and environmental needs of the person with the eating disorder.

    Treatment for eating disorders can include hospital stays, intensive outpatient programs, community programs, support groups and counselling.

    Its important to remember that eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with potentially life-threatening consequences. Therefore, it is crucial to seek help immediately.

    What Is Anorexia Nervosa

    People with anorexia nervosa avoid food, severely restrict food, or eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Even when they are dangerously underweight, they may see themselves as overweight. They may also weigh themselves repeatedly.

    There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa: a restrictive subtype and binge-purge subtype.

    Restrictive: People with the restrictive subtype of anorexia nervosa place severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they consume.

    Binge-Purge: People with the binge-purge subtype of anorexia nervosa also place severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they consume. In addition, they may have binge eating and purging behaviors .

    Symptoms include:

    • Brain damage
    • Multiorgan failure

    Anorexia can be fatal. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. People with anorexia may die from medical conditions and complications associated with starvation; by comparison, people with others eating disorders die of suicide.

    If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK , 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Anorexia Is A Form Of Mental Illness Learn How The Disorder Changes Cognitive Functioning And Can Be Fatal

    Eating Disorder Infographic

    Editorial Team

    is a prevalent eating disorder. People who grapple with anorexia can experience changes in the way they feel, think and behave. Because of its effects on the brain, many credible organizations consider anorexia to be a mental illness.

    According to the American Psychiatric Association, a mental illness is a health condition that causes changes in emotion, thinking and behavior. People with mental health disorders typically deal with work, social and relationship problems.

    Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, stated that recent research shows that eating disorders are severe mental health disorders. Anorexia is a form of mental illness that can lead to severe health problems or even death.

    In a report published by the Academy for Eating Disorders, Insel alluded to genetic and neuroimaging studies that examined the effects of eating disorders like anorexia. These studies strongly suggest that anorexia has a genetic link similar to those of other mental illnesses.

    The Academy for Eating Disorders says that anorexia is a mental illness because:

    Judith Banker, president of the Academy for Eating Disorders, says that eating disorders are associated with the highest levels of medical problems and death of any psychiatric disorder. She emphasized that society should treat anorexia with the same level of care as with other psychological disorders.

    Why Eating Disorders Remain Socially Unaccepted As A Mental Illness

    Table of Contents

    The Academy for Eating Disorders  classifies anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders as serious and viable mental illnesses requiring the same rigorous, evidence-based therapies used to treat major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia. Unfortunately, eating disorders are not always considered a mental illness based on stereotypes characterizing individuals  who appear to be narcissistically fixated on their weight and appearance. Consequently, eating disorder treatment centers are now actively providing in-depth mental health education to patients, family members of eating disorder patients and residents of communities involved in eating disorder support.

    What To Do If You Think You Have Disordered Eating

    Many people with disordered eating feel that their experiences arent bad enough, or they arent “thin enough” to need professional help.

    No matter what a person weighs, how much or little they eat, anybody experiencing unhealthy eating patterns and distress about how they look should seek professional support.

    Its a good idea to try to find help sooner rather than later. The earlier you get support, the quicker you can start recovering.


    Questions To Ask Your Doctor

    Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website for tips at .

    More information about finding a health care provider or treatment for mental disorders is available on our Finding Help for Mental Illness webpage, available at .

    Family Support And Mental Illness

    It is vital for loved ones to know that the time when someone with mental health issues needs help the most is often the time theyre least open to it. It is equally crucial to remember that impaired cognitive and executive functions are not uncommon side effects of eating disorders, so those struggling may lack the ability to arrive at a healthy conclusion without the patience and persistence of their support network. 

    Causes & Risk Factors

    Eating disorders appear to result from multiple factors including cultural, social, family and emotional pressures; personality disorders; genetics and biological factors. Some research has shown a connection between child sexual abuse and subsequent development of eating disorders. Eating disorders typically begin during adolescence. Moreover, up to 90 per cent of eating disorders occur in women, though men are being diagnosed more often.

    How Is Nimh Addressing Eating Disorders

    The National Institute of Mental Health is conducting and supporting research that could help find new and improved ways to diagnose and treat eating disorders. For example, the NIMH Eating Disorders Research Program supports research on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment at medical institutions across the country. It also supports studies that can help explain the risk factors that cause eating disorders to start or reoccur. The programs studies on treatment help move basic science findings from the lab bench to a patients bedside.

    How To Treat Eating Disorders

    Fortunately, it is possible to successfully treat eating disorders. Treatment requires an organized approach to manage symptoms, return to a healthy weight and maintain good mental and physical health. To accomplish this, there needs to be a strong support team that includes a mental health professional, registered dietician and supportive family members. 

    Specifically, here is what you can expect from a treatment plan: 

    If you are concerned about an eating disorder in yourself or a loved one, contact Awakenings Treatment Center. Our clients benefit from our broad spectrum of evidence-based services that also address co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or addiction. With the right treatment, you can heal from your eating disorder. 

    Substance Abuse And Eating Disorders Share A Common Etiology

    All about disordered eating: Understanding and addressing ...

    It has been suggested that particular personality traits may increase a persons chances of developing both substance abuse and an eating disorder:

    • Novelty-seeking A person seeks out new experiences often.
    • Impulsivity A person makes spur-of-the-moment decisions and choices.
    • High interpersonal sensitivity A person is very good at perceiving others feelings and motivations.
    • Neuroticism A person has high levels of negative mood, such as ,, and low self-esteem.
    • Poor emotion regulation A person may have maladaptive reactions to their emotional feelings.

    Each of these personality traits has been associated with both eating disorders and substance abuse problems. Specific features of this personality profile may render a person more susceptible to emotional and societal pressures, potentially turning them towards the use of substances and strict food control to cope.

    In addition to these personality traits, suffering from depression and experiencing life trauma have also been associated with both eating disorders and substance abuse.

    How Mental Health Challenges Can Affect Eating Disorder Issues

    Eating disorders are all too common. In the United States, about nine percent of people will be affected at some point in their lifetime according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

    Although these numbers are high, eating disorders are not often talked about. Whether its due to social stigma or shame about mental illness, you may have questions without immediate answers.

    One of the first questions people often wonder about when faced with an eating disorder themselves, or upon hearing about them, is how do eating disorders affect mental health? This is a complex question, but its best understood with a foundation as to what eating disorders are.

    How Can I Help A Loved One

    Supporting a loved one who experiences an eating disorder can be very challenging. Many people feel upset or even frightened by their loved ones beliefs, behaviours, or state of well-being. An approach that focuses on support and understanding rather than control is best. Here are some tips to help you support a loved one:

    • Remember that eating disorders are a sign of much bigger problems. Avoid focusing on food or eating habits alone.
    • Be mindful of your own attitudes and behaviours around food and body image.
    • Never force someone to change their eating habits or trick someone into changing.
    • Avoid reacting to a loved ones body image talk or trying to reason with statements that seem unrealistic to you.
    • If your loved one is an adult, remember that supporting help-seeking is a balance between your own concerns and their right to privacy.
    • If your loved ones experiences are affecting other family members, family counselling may be helpful
    • Dont be afraid to set boundaries and seek support for yourself.

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