Reaching Out For Help
Other Specified Feeding And Eating Disorder
This diagnostic category includes eating disorders or disturbances of eating behavior that cause distress and impair family, social or work function but do not fit the other categories listed here. In some cases, this is because the frequency of the behavior dose not meet the diagnostic threshold or the weight criteria for the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa are not met.
An example of other specified feeding and eating disorder is “atypical anorexia nervosa”. This category includes individuals who may have lost a lot of weight and whose behaviors and degree of fear of fatness is consistent with anorexia nervosa, but who are not yet considered underweight based on their BMI because their baseline weight was above average.
Since speed of weight loss is related to medical complications, individuals who lose a lot of weight rapidly by engaging in extreme weight control behaviors can be at high risk of medical complications, even if they appear normal or above average weight.
How Do Eating Disorders Affect Health And Emotions
Eating disorders can cause serious problems throughout the body.
Anorexia can lead to health problems caused by undernutrition and low body weight, such as:
- low blood pressure
- feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or faint
- constipation and bloating
- autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- problems at home and school because of eating behavior
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How Common Are Eating Disorders
The eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, respectively, affect 0.5 percent and 2-3 percent of women over their lifetime. The most common age of onset is between 12-25. Although much more common in females, 10 percent of cases detected are in males. Binge eating disorder and OSFED are more common and rates of ARFID are not yet known as this diagnosis was defined relatively recently.
Educate Yourself About Eating Disorders
In order to be a good supporter, it will be important for you to learn more about eating disorders. Eating disorders are very poorly understood by the general population and myths abound.
Understanding the facts about eating disorders can be a great place to start. You’ll learn easy-to-understand facts like eating disorders are not choices, but serious biologically influenced illnesses.” Even if this eating disorder started out as a diet, your loved one did not choose for it to tip over into a disorder.
Other helpful resources include several major eating disorder organizations which have informative websites and other material to support carers.
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How To Know If You Have An Eating Disorder
This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 29,903 times.
Eating disorders can come in different forms but they all affect your relationship with food and they can cause serious health problems if left untreated. You can learn about the behaviors, feelings, and physical effects of eating disorders to help you determine if you might have one. If you think you may have an eating disorder, make sure that you seek help as soon as possible. Eating disorders can become much more severe if left untreated.
How Long Have Eating Disorders Been Around
Eating disorders have existed a long time. Historical descriptions exist from the time of Caesar in 700 BC where rich ancient Romans would gorge themselves at lavish banquets, then purge so they could return to the feast. In later centuries, women would starve themselves, believing their desire for food was sinful in 1686, an English physician described a 20-year-old patient as “a skeleton clad with skin.”While people have long experienced and displayed symptoms of eating disorders, it took hundreds of years before terms were ascribed to those conditions. Here is a brief history of three types of eating disorders that are widely recognized today.
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What About Other Types Of Therapies
Researchers continue to investigate the efficacy of other therapies that we discussed above. Below is a snapshot of some of the results:
- ACT: A 2020 study assessed 99 women with residual eating disorder symptoms and body image problems. At a 2-year follow-up, women who had received 12 sessions of ACT had fewer symptoms than those who didnt receive ACT.
- CRT: A
- small 2015 study assessed DBT for treating anorexia nervosa. It found that specifically targeting skills like flexibility, openness, and interpersonal skills may be helpful in treating this disorder.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy: A 2016 paper reviewed 47 studies of psychodynamic psychotherapy for treating eating disorders. It noted that while studies are scarce, the available data supports the use of this therapy for eating disorders, particularly for anorexia, but noted that more studies are needed to test its effectiveness.
Adopting Ritualistic Eating Habits And Rules
Eating a set quantity of a particular food at a certain time in a certain setting may be part of a daily routine. However, when taken to extremes that interfere with everyday life, ritualistic habits and rigid rules may indicate an unhealthy relationship with food. Eliminating whole food groups, limiting food intake, restricting quantities or following inflexible preparation practices may be a sign of an eating disorder.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have an eating disorder, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What type of eating disorder do I have?
- What is the best treatment for the eating disorder I have?
- What are the treatment risks and side effects?
- What type of follow-up care do I need after treatment?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Eating disorders are a serious problem that can affect your mental and physical health. If you think you have an eating disorder, dont be embarrassed about seeking help. Millions of Americans struggle every day with an eating disorder. With proper medical care and mental health counseling, you can get better. Years of living with an untreated eating disorder can harm your physical health and may lead to life-threatening problems. Take the first step to protecting your well-being by talking to your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/07/2020.
Association Is Not Cause
There is no single cause for any eating disorder. This may shock some people who look for causes in childhood experiences or traumas. What we do know is that there are several known risk factors which make it more likely that a person will develop an eating disorder. And there are known risk factors for specific types of eating disorder. Someone with any kind of eating disorder is more likely to be sensitive, prone to anxiety, has high standards yet poor self-confidence. The reasons why these factors have come together in any one individual will be personal. Sometimes it is just an accident of birth and sometimes it is a build up of experiences.
Below are some of the known risk factors for eating disorders:
Eating disorders most commonly start off with dieting behaviour. You can read more about the effects and the psychology of dieting on our information page. Even though most eating disorders begin with a diet, not all dieters will get an eating disorder.
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National Eating Disorders Association
NEDA is a nonprofit organization that works to support those that have an eating disorder. Their website contains a wealth of information about eating disorders, treatment, and support.
Additional resources from NEDA that you may find helpful include:
- Treatment locator: This map tool can help you find a treatment provider close to you.
- NEDA helpline: You can use the NEDA helpline to find support and treatment resources that are available to you. Its available Monday through Friday, although you can leave a message after hours.
Risk Factors For Developing Orthorexia
Research on the precise causes of orthorexia is sparse, but obsessive-compulsive tendencies and past or current eating disorders are known risk factors. In some cases, orthorexia may manifest as a more socially acceptable way to restrict food (
Further, the rapid increase in the promotion of clean eating lifestyles on social media may also play a role in the development of orthorexia.
Proponents of clean eating promote whole, minimally processed foods, which are healthy. But the phrase clean eating moralizes food by painting other foods as dirty or undesirable. Moralization stigmatizes some foods, contributing to eating disorders such as orthorexia.
However, because there is no official diagnostic tool for orthorexia, its difficult to ascertain what puts a person at a higher risk. Therefore, more research is needed.
The exact causes of orthorexia are not well known, but certain personality and social risk factors have been identified, such as high anxiety, history of disordered eating, social media exposure, and interest in health and wellness.
In some cases, it can be hard to differentiate between orthorexia and an interest in healthy eating.
Also, because orthorexia has no universally agreed-upon diagnostic criteria, different studies use different criteria for diagnosing it.
For example, one review found that prevalence of orthorexia ranged from 6.9% in the general Italian population to 88.7% among Brazilian nutrition students .
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Treatments For Eating Disorders
The right treatment approach for each person depends on their specific symptoms, issues, and strengths, as well as the severity of the disorder. To be most effective, treatment for an eating disorder must address both the physical and psychological aspects of the problem. The goal is to treat any medical or nutritional needs, promote a healthy relationship with food, and teach constructive ways to cope with unpleasant emotions and lifes challenges.
A team approach is often best. Those who may be involved in treatment include medical doctors, mental health professionals, and nutritionists. The participation and support of family members also makes a big difference in the success of eating disorder treatment.
Medical treatment. The first priority is to address and stabilize any serious health issues. Hospitalization or residential treatment may be necessary if your loved one is dangerously malnourished, suffering from medical complications, severely depressed or suicidal, or resistant to treatment. Outpatient treatment is an option when the patient is not in immediate medical danger.
Nutritional counseling. Dietitians or nutritionists can help your loved one design balanced meal plans, set dietary goals, and reach or maintain a healthy weight. Counseling may also involve education about proper nutrition.
The Impact Of Eating Disorders
- About one person dies every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder.
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
- Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. One study found that people with anorexia are 56 times more likely to commit suicide than people without an eating disorder.
- Up to half of the people with an eating disorder misused alcohol or illicit drugs at a rate five times higher than the general population.
- The vast majority of people hospitalized for an eating disorder have a co-occurring health condition. Mood disorders, like major depression, are the primary underlying condition followed by anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorder.
- Diabetes patients who have an eating disorder, struggle with controlling their diabetes, which exposes them to diabetic complications such as heart disease, stroke, neuropathy, loss of vision, and kidney disease.
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Changes In Exercise Patterns
One of the other signs that someone has an eating disorder is a change in their exercise patterns. People with these disorders often become obsessed with exercising and may do it to the point of exhaustion.
They may also exercise even when they are injured or sick. Also, people with eating disorders often feel like they have to exercise in order to lose weight or to prevent themselves from gaining weight.
Check If You Have An Eating Disorder
If you or people around you are worried that you have an unhealthy relationship with food, you could have an eating disorder.
Symptoms of eating disorders include:
- spending a lot of time worrying about your weight and body shape
- avoiding socialising when you think food will be involved
- eating very little food
- cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly
- wearing loose or baggy clothes to hide their weight loss
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Take Our Eating Disorder Quiz Today
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Please note: this online eating disorder screening test is not intended to diagnose an illness. If you are struggling with eating disorder behaviors, we encourage you to call us at or find an experienced eating disorder treatment professional near you. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Who Is At Risk For Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders. Although eating disorders often appear during the teen years or young adulthood, they may also develop during childhood or later in life .
Remember: People with eating disorders may appear healthy, yet be extremely ill.
The exact cause of eating disorders is not fully understood, but research suggests a combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors can raise a persons risk.
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How Are Eating Disorders Managed Or Treated
Treatments for eating disorders vary depending on the type and your specific needs. Even if you dont have a diagnosed eating disorder, an expert can help you address and manage food-related issues. Treatments include:
- Psychotherapy: A mental health professional can determine the best psychotherapy for your situation. Many people with eating disorders improve with cognitive behavioral therapy . This form of therapy helps you understand and change distorted thinking patterns that drive behaviors and emotions.
- Maudsley approach: This form of family therapy helps parents of teenagers with anorexia. Parents actively guide a childs eating while they learn healthier habits.
- Medications: Some people with eating disorders have other conditions, like anxiety or depression. Taking antidepressants or other medications can improve these conditions. As a result, your thoughts about yourself and food improve.
- Nutrition counseling: A registered dietitian with training in eating disorders can help improve eating habits and develop nutritious meal plans. This specialist can also offer tips for grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation.
The best treatment approach is often a combination of all of these professionals working together to obtain a comprehensive treatment to address the physical, mental and behavioral aspects.
The Beginning Of An Eating Disorder
People described how their problems often developed gradually over a few years. Sometimes the development was slow with on/off periods and then something would trigger a rapid deterioration. Often people didnt realise things were getting out of hand and the eating disorder developed before I knew it. David said his bulimia nervosa developed over a period of a couple years it wasnt something that I really necessarily noticed it just started to creep on.
When youve been doing that for such a long time, it just becomes habit and routine and you lose sight of why you did it in the first place. Steph
An eating disorder could also develop quickly, over a course of a few months. Young people we talked with often recalled specific times holidays, school trips, arguments at school, home or with friends that had happened just before things flipped over. Once the eating disorder had kicked in in full, people described how things quickly spiralled out of control. Soon they realised they had become engrossed in an obsessive routine of behaviours that took on a life of its own and which could include:
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So What Causes An Eating Disorder
- The shame of having an eating problem
- The eating disorder is useful- this is a big issue for most people with an active eating problem. Purging can become a way to manage moods or to get through the day.
- Perhaps I dont deserve to get help / I should be able to crack this on my own.
- I am not ill enough or, there are people much more worse off than me.