Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can impact individuals mentally and physically. They range from simple, mild annoyances to severe cases which could result in debilitating medical and social problems.
Those who are at risk of an eating disorder often have one or more of the following factors:
There are a variety of signs and symptoms associated with eating disorders. These include:
Eating disorders can show up differently for each individual. As such, the DSM-5 has outlined many different eating disorders and their symptoms. These include:
Anorexia nervosa is defined as an extreme restriction of calories. This drastic restriction of food consumption can be due to an intense fear of gaining weight. Individuals who have anorexia nervosa are often underweight, but can view themselves as being overweight.
This condition is often called distorted body image or body dysmorphia. Anorexia has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental health disorder.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where an individual consumes an extreme amount of food (binging behavior) in a short period of time. Those who have bulimia nervosa can often display feelings of lack of control during these binging sessions.
These binging episodes may be followed by compensatory behaviors, such as purging or using laxatives. Those who have bulimia nervosa may often appear to be at normal weight.
Binge eating disorder describes individuals who consume an extremely large amount of food in a short period of time. Those individuals who show signs of binge eating disorder can often show strong lack of control.
Symptoms for binge eating disorder include eating a large amount of food despite not being hungry, eating rapidly, or eating until uncomfortably full. Those with binge eating disorder don’t engage in compensatory behaviors.
Avoidant restrictive intake disorder (ARFID) describes individuals who limit the amount and/or types of food consumed that do not involve distress over body shape or size.
Those with avoidant restrictive intake disorder often fail to get proper nutrients as a result of their selectiveness, resulting in a significant nutritional deficiency in their diet.
Pica refers to an eating disorder where individuals eat items that are typically not thought of as food and have no nutritional value (e.g. hair, dirt, or paint). This disorder can commonly be seen in pregnant women or children and is temporary, although pica can lead to potentially serious side effects if not treated.
Rumination disorder is used to describe individuals who regularly regurgitate their food for a period of one month. This regurgitation is not due to medical conditions, and is often done without any effort. Food that has been regurgitated can also be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out.
Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) is a term used to describe those who display disordered eating behaviors but don’t meet the criteria for any of the other disorders listed above. These include purging disorder, night eating syndrome, and other eating disorder symptoms which cause significant distress and impairment. Despite not being listed by the DSM-5 they are just as serious and often go undiagnosed due to a lack of awareness around their symptoms. These include:
Eating disorders are treatable. However, it’s important that individuals get the proper care to overcome their eating disorder and seek treatment.
If you or a loved one are concerned that you may be suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating, please reach out to us to receive a thorough assessment of your situation. As part of your initial appointment, we will provide an EAT-26 (at-risk screening instrument). This will help you narrow down your condition and address your specific needs to determine the level of care that would work best for you. At times this might include the need for support groups for eating disorders or other eating disorder recovery methods.
Our eating disorder specialist has experience facilitating eating-disordered individual and group therapy and has treated multiple adolescents, adults, men, and women.
She has worked in an intensive outpatient eating disorder setting and works collaboratively with other treatment team members to change the course of this disorder. She is a member of the Central Texas Eating Disorder Specialists, and attends workshops to stay up to date on effective treatment approaches for the central Texas community including the use of eating disorder support groups.