Treatment For Eating Disorders
You can recover from an eating disorder, but it may take time and recovery will be different for everyone.
If you’re referred to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists, they’ll be responsible for your care.
They should talk to you about the support you might need, such as for other conditions you have, and include this in your treatment plan.
Your treatment will depend on the type of eating disorder you have, but usually includes a talking therapy.
You may also need regular health checks if your eating disorder is having an impact on your physical health.
Your treatment may also involve working through a guided self-help programme if you have bulimia or binge eating disorder.
Most people will be offered individual therapy, but those with binge eating disorder may be offered group therapy.
Read more about the different treatments for:
Treatment for other specified feeding or eating disorder will depend on the type of eating disorder your symptoms are most like.
For example, if your symptoms are most like anorexia, your treatment will be similar to the treatment for anorexia.
Signs Of Bulimia Nervosa
People with bulimia nervosa have episodes of eating large amounts of food followed by purging , fasting, or exercising excessively to compensate for the overeating.
Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia are often a normal weight. But they have the same intense fear of gaining weight and distorted body image. They see themselves as âfatâ and desperately want to lose weight. Because they often feel ashamed and disgusted with themselves, people with bulimia become very good at hiding the bulimic behaviors.
The following are common signs of bulimia:
- Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
- Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting, or packages of laxatives or diuretics
- Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others, or eating very small portions
- Exercising excessively
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide the body
- Complaining about being âfatâ
- Using gum, mouthwash, or mints excessively
- Constantly dieting
- Scarred knuckles from repeatedly inducing vomiting
Where To Get Help
If you or someone you know has the symptoms of an eating disorder, it is important to seek professional help as early as possible. Eating disorders are damaging to the body and can even be fatal but they are treatable.
Visiting your doctor is the first step to recovery. If you don’t have a GP, you can find one near you using the healthdirect Service Finder.
You can speak confidentially to an adviser on the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline .
You can also call Eating Disorders Victoriafor advice, support and information on 1300 550 236 .
If you are in crisis and need counselling now, you can call:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
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Six Of The Most Common Types Of Eating Disorders
After collating a series of national surveys, the National Eating Disorders Association estimates that, in America alone, approximately 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that eating disorders are on the rise all around the world, the general public still has a lot of misconceptions when it comes to signs, symptoms, and types of eating disorders. To help dispel some of these misconceptions, this article will briefly outline six of the most common types of eating disorders.
1. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is perhaps the most recognized type of eating disorder. According to NEDA, anorexia nervosa is more common among women and typically emerges during early adulthood or late adolescence.
People with anorexia nervosa may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Being abnormally underweight with respect to height and age weight criteria.
- Having obsessive thoughts regarding thinness and being thinner.
- Having an extreme fear of gaining weight.
- Shunning meals with other people.
- Basing self-esteem on distorted ideas of body image.
Medical experts recognize two distinct types of anorexia nervosa:
Binge eating and purging: This type of anorexia drives people to purge their food after a binge eating episode. The most common methods of post-binge purging are self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives.
2. Bulimia Nervosa
- Acid reflux
- Dangerously elevated electrolyte imbalances
Other Eating Disorders And Eating Problems
Other specified feeding and eating disorder
OFSED means you have symptoms of an eating disorder, but you dont have all the typical symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or BED. You may have a mixture of symptoms from different eating disorders. This doesnt mean that your illness is less serious.
You turn to food when you have negative feelings if you are an emotional overeater. These can be feelings like anxiety or sadness. Eating food may help you to feel comforted.
Lots of people use food to help manage feelings, this is normal. But it may become a problem if this is the only management technique that you have, or you are beginning to feel out of control. Emotional overeating can cause feelings of guilt and shame.
With pica, you eat non-food objects such as chalk, paint, stones and clothing. There is no nutritional benefit from eating these items and some can be harmful. Pica can lead to further health concerns such as dental and stomach problems.
You will chew and spit out food without swallowing it if you have rumination disorder. You may do this repeatedly.
Selective eating disorder
You will only eat certain foods and may refuse to try other foods if you have SED. This is common in young children. But the problem can continue into adulthood.
When Should I Call The Doctor
You should call your healthcare provider if you have an eating disorder and you:
- Find that your relationship to food is causing you distress.
- Find that your relationship to food is getting in the way of your everyday activities.
- Have a severe sore throat or acid reflux.
- Have slurred speech or blurred vision.
General Eating Disorder Statistics
- Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide.1
- 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.2
- Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as underweight.1
- 28-74% of risk for eating disorders is through genetic heritability.1
- Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.1
- 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorderthats one death every 52 minutes.2
- About 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide.1
- The economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year.2
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More About Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by patterns of excessive overeating, often in rapid fashion. Unlike Bulimia Nervosa, individuals who experience BED may not showcase behaviors of purging in order to prevent weight gain.
Signs that a person may be experiencing Binge Eating Disorder and need help include:
- Routinely and persistently eating large amounts of food
- Feelings of the inability to control how much is being eaten
- Eating food rapidly
- Eating in isolation to avoid others
Other Specified Feeding Or Eating Disorders
Other specified feeding or eating disorders is typically diagnosed when someone has symptoms of eating disorders but doesnt meet the criteria for any of the eating disorders listed in the DSM-5.
The OSFED classifications cover a broad range of conditions. Symptoms of OSFED often cause stress, social problems, and affect functioning in other areas of life.
Like all eating disorders, OSFED can become severe and life threatening if left untreated.
Eating disorders that fall under the OSFED classification include:
- Atypical anorexia nervosa: similar to anorexia nervosa with weight loss and potential nutritional and medical side effects, though they are at an average or above-average body weight
- Purging disorder: self-induced vomiting, excessive laxative use, or the use of other medications not following an episode of binge eating
- Night eating syndrome:frequently waking up and eating, or excessive eating in the evenings after dinner
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Getting Help For An Eating Disorder
If you think you may have an eating disorder, see a GP as soon as you can.
A GP will ask about your eating habits and how you’re feeling, plus check your overall health and weight.
They may refer you to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists.
It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and ask for help. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.
You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.
Spotting An Eating Disorder In A Loved One
Different eating disorders have some different features – for instance, to be diagnosed with anorexia you must be underweight. However, it’s absolutely possible to have an eating disorder without being grossly underweight. In fact, people with orthorexia are often also obsessed with being in perfect physical shape, so may be extremely fit and look very healthy.
Warning signs include:
- Making excuses not to eat in company.
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide their shape.
- Secret stashes of unhealthy food or laxatives.
- Locking themselves in the bathroom after meals or at other times.
- Becoming distressed if you try to talk to them about eating.
- Being very concerned that others in the family eat lots.
- Being very fussy about their food.
- Cutting out whole food groups – gluten, lactose, any form of processed foods, animal products, etc.
- Insisting on doing the food shopping, and spending long periods looking at he food nutritional labels.
- Being short-tempered or irritable.
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People In Larger Bodies Eating Disorder Statistics
- Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as underweight.1
- Larger body size is both a risk factor for developing an eating disorder and a common outcome for people who struggle with bulimia and binge eating disorder.12
- People in larger bodies are half as likely as those at a normal weight or underweight to be diagnosed with an eating disorder.13
How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder
Treatment for any eating disorder involves admitting theres a problem, addressing the physical issues and getting intensive, often long-term, treatment for the psychological disorder that has caused it and keeps it going.
If you think someone you love has an eating disorder, being supportive is key. You need to help them to recognise that they have a serious medical condition which goes much further than food and needs medical help. People with eating disorders are often secretive and theyre likely to be sensitive if you broach the subject. You may want to talk to their GP in confidence and get ideas on how to persuade them to seek help. Reassure them youre on their side you could be their salvation.
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How Is Eating Disorders Diagnosed
Because eating disorders can be so serious, it is important to seek help if you or a loved one thinks that you might have a problem. Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:
- A medical history, which includes asking about your symptoms. It is important to be honest about your eating and exercise behaviors so your provider can help you.
- A physical exam
- Blood or urine tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms
- Other tests to see whether you have any other health problems caused by the eating disorder. These can include kidney function tests and an electrocardiogram .
What Are The Different Types Of Eating Disorder
One eating disorder called orthorexia was only described for the first time in the 1990s. As a result, there have been several changes in how eating disorders are grouped together, or classified.
The World Health Organization uses a classification called ICD-10, which splits eating disorders up into Anorexia Nervosa Bulimia Nervosa Overeating Associated with Other Psychological Disturbances and Other Eating Disorders.
The DSM classification, from the American Psychiatric Association, was updated to its fifth version in 2013. DSM-5 breaks eating disorders down into:
- Anorexia nervosa .
- Bulimia nervosa .
- Binge eating disorder.
- Other specified feeding or eating disorder .
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder .
- Rumination disorder.
- Unspecified feeding or eating disorder.
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Types Of Eating Disorders
A serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
Food restriction leading to significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, development, and physical health
Intense fear of weight gain or becoming fat
Persistent behavior interfering with weight gain despite low weight, such as fasting or excessive exercise
Disturbed experience of ones body weight or shape, influenced by self-evaluation or persistent lack of recognizing the seriousness of current low body weight
Restricting behavior or binge eating and purging behaviors
Medical Complications and Associated Features
Signs of depression, such as depressed mood, social withdrawal, irritability, insomnia, and diminished interest in sex
Obsessive-compulsive features, both related and unrelated to food
- Elevated suicide risk
Delayed puberty, lack of development
Gastrointestinal complications such as stomach aches, bloating, constipation, and acid reflux
Vital sign disturbances, such as dangerously low blood pressure
Loss of and/or weakened heart muscle
Heart palpitations and chest pain
Bradycardia or tachycardia
Signs Of Anorexia Nervosa
People with anorexia nervosa have an extreme fear of gaining weight. They often diet and exercise relentlessly, sometimes to the point of starvation. About one-third to one-half of anorexics also binge and purge by vomiting or misusing laxatives. People with anorexia have a distorted body image, thinking they are overweight when in fact they are underweight. They may count calories obsessively and only allow themselves tiny portions of certain specific foods. When confronted, someone with anorexia will often deny that thereâs a problem.
The signs of anorexia can be subtle at first, because it develops gradually. It may begin as an interest in dieting before an event like a school dance or a beach vacation. But as the disorder takes hold, preoccupation with weight intensifies. It creates a vicious cycle: The more weight the person loses, the more that person worries and obsesses about weight.
The following symptoms and behaviors are common in people with anorexia:
- Dramatic weight loss
- Complaining about constipation or stomach pain
- Denying that extreme thinness is a problem
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People With Disabilities Eating Disorder Statistics
- Women with physical disabilities are more likely to develop eating disorders.9
- 20-30% of adults with eating disorders also have autism.10
- 3-10% of children and young people with eating disorders also have autism.10
- 20% of women with anorexia have high levels of autistic traits. There is some evidence that these women benefit the least from current eating disorder treatment models.10
- ADHD is the most commonly missed diagnosis in relation to disordered eating.11
Statistical Methods And Measurement Caveats
This webpage presents data from the following sources.
National Comorbidity Survey Replication
Diagnostic Assessment and Population:
- The NCS-R is a nationally representative, face-to-face, household survey conducted between February 2001 and April 2003 with a response rate of 70.9%. DSM-IV mental disorders were assessed using a modified version of the fully structured World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview , a fully structured lay-administered diagnostic interview that generates both International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, and DSM-IV diagnoses. The DSM-IV criteria were used here. Participants for the main interview totaled 9,282 English-speaking, non-institutionalized, civilian respondents. Eating disorders were assessed in a subsample of 2,980 respondents. The Sheehan Disability Scales assessed disability in work role performance, household maintenance, social life, and intimate relationships on 010 scales. The NCS-R was led by Harvard University.
- In 2001-2002, non-response was 29.1% of primary respondents and 19.6% of secondary respondents. Reasons for non-response to interviewing include: refusal to participate respondent was reluctant- too busy but did not refuse circumstantial, such as intellectual developmental disability or overseas work assignment and household units that were never contacted .
- For more information, see PMID: 15297905 and the NIMH NCS-R study page.
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What Is An Eating Disorder
Eating disorders revolve around abnormal eating habits and often include physical changes.
For some, eating disorders involve limiting the amount of food that is consumed for others, it involves uncontrollable eating. Some people with eating disorders become obsessed with diet and exercise. Others will eat large quantities of food and then vomit.
There is no single demographic at risk for eating disorders theyre diseases that can occur in people of any gender, race, religion, or socio-economic background.
Treatment Centers And Practitioners
ABINT Eating Disorder Treatment is a center in Peru that offers medical, psychiatric, and psychological care. Nutritional education and family programs are also an integral part of treatment at this facility.
Clínica Alemana de Santiago is a hospital in Chile that is accredited by the Joint Commission. Individuals with eating disorders who are not medically stable can contact Claudio Mizon, M.D., at for more information.
Natalia Mayor Arias, M.D., is a psychiatrist in Colombia who specializes in eating disorder recovery. She can be reached at
, is part of the Obesity & Eating Disorders Team in Brazil. He can be reached at
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Avoidant/restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is characterized by severely limiting your diet and eating only certain kinds of food. Previously, this condition was called selective eating disorder.
However, ARFID isnt just extreme picky eating. With ARFID, you may avoid certain foods or entire food groups. You may also seriously restrict the overall amount of food you eat in general.
ARFID often stems from a fear of something bad happening when you eat, like poisoning, choking, or vomiting.
Sometimes, ARFID can be connected to sensory disorders as well as autism spectrum disorder . People with ARFID might limit their eating to avoid foods with certain features they might be sensitive to, such as:
- low energy from inadequate nutrition
- intolerance for cold temperatures
- gastrointestinal issues, like stomach pain or constipation
ARFID can progress to a point where a feeding tube or supplements are necessary to deliver essential, life-sustaining nutrients.