What are Eating Disorders?

In our body-conscious culture, most of us are guilty of obsessing about how we look from time to time. But when those thoughts lead to drastic attempts to lose weight and a total preoccupation with food, it’s considering an eating disorder.

The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. People with anorexia try extremely hard get to a very low body weight, often by starving themselves. They have an intense fear of gaining weight and may exercise compulsively and abuse laxatives. Unlike people with anorexia, those with bulimia eat massive amounts of food quickly (known as binging), and try to get rid of the extra calories by vomiting (a.k.a. purging) or over-exercising. Binge eating disorder, which is just as common in men as in women, means that someone eats excessive amounts of food, but doesn’t try to exercise or purge like someone with bulimia might.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. It’s estimated that up to 24 million Americans are suffering from an eating disorder. Since eating disorders are more likely to end in death than any other mental health condition, it’s critical to get support.

What are the warning signs?

  • Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
  • Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
  • Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
  • Excessive exercise
  • Leaving during meals to use the bathroom
  • Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal
  • Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits
  • Eating in secret

Read about warning signs for specific eating disorders— anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

How can I get help?

Anytime you are in crisis you can call or chat with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Treatment for eating disorders usually involves a combination of therapy, nutrition education, medication, and sometimes hospitalization. You can call The National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237 or chat online for support and to learn about treatment options.

If you want to get connected to mental health treatment center in your area, use the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator or call 1-800-662-HELP.


  • Kristin

    Kristin Kristin

    Reply Author

    While all this is good information, there needs to be more information available about EDNOS or OSFED. Most people don’t know about EDNOS/OSFED, but it’s widely spreading.

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