Spotlight: Eating Disorders

“Eating disorders are serious mental illness, not lifestyle choices.”

Demi Lovato

It is estimated that 8 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder-this number is made up of approximately 7 million women and 1 million men.

Around 8 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder-this number is made up of approximately 7 million women and 1 million men.

Eating disorders, while some of the most common mental health conditions in America and the rest of the world, are also some of the most stigmatized. Signs that someone may have an eating disorder include, but are not limited to experiencing major changes in appetite and becoming more concerned with eating habits than normal.

It is important to note that there are many types of eating disorders, and that eating disorders can affect anyone.

There are 3 types of eating disorders, but as always with mental health conditions, symptoms will vary significantly from person to person.

1. Anorexia Nervosa (Anorexia)

Anorexia nervosa, or anorexia for short, is characterized by a distorted body image (almost always viewing one’s self as much heavier than reality) and a resulting preoccupation with weight loss. This often ends up in refusal to eat and denial of hunger. People who have anorexia also tend to put themselves through much stricter and more difficult exercise regimens than necessary in an attempt to burn calories and change their distorted body image.

Anorexia is not: trying to draw attention to yourself and your weight. It is a serious mental health condition and should not be the cause of an insensitive stereotype, just like any other condition.

2. Bulimia Nervosa (Bulimia)

Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia for short, is characterized by the habit of binge-eating followed by purging. Binge-eating occurs when a person eats a very large amount of food during a short period of time, and purging is the effort to rid themselves of the food (either through forced vomiting, laxative use, or strenuous exercise). When these behaviors become a repeated cycle, it is classified as bulimia. The binging-purging cycle has a very negative emotional and physical effect, but again is not something that a person who has bulimia can necessarily control without treatment.

Bulimia is not: using sickness as an excuse, or an attempt at attention-seeking through a mental health condition. Like anorexia, it is a serious mental health condition and should not be the basis for stereotyping or insensitive treatment of an individual.

3. Binge-Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge-eating disorder, or BED for short, is very similar to bulimia in that it is characterized by binge-eating habits. However, someone who has BED will not exhibit the purging seen with bulimia, which can lead to weight gain. Binge-eating disorder is different from simply eating a lot of food; it is an involuntary behavior which can occur even when someone isn’t hungry.

Binge-eating disorder is not: just “eating too much”. It is a medical condition that causes behaviors that people otherwise would not exhibit, and again should not be the basis of stereotyping or insensitivity.

Just like any other kind of mental health condition, eating disorders can have many causes, including genetics, life experiences, the environment a person is living in, and more.

Beauty starts in your head, not in your mirror.


The first step in every treatment process is a diagnosis. If you or someone who is close to you recognizes a significant change in your eating and exercise habits, it might be a good idea to ask your primary physician about an eating disorder diagnosis. It is important that when recovering from an eating disorder, you are aware of every step of the process beforehand and feel comfortable with forms of treatment prescribed.

Treatment of eating disorders usually takes a biopsychological (mind-body) approach, including both nutritional counseling and psychological monitoring. Because eating disorders have the possibility to more directly affect an individual’s physical health than many other mental health conditions, medical statistics may be frequently recorded as well. A crucial part of this treatment is nutritional education, because it helps individuals who have struggled with eating disorders get back on the right path to eating healthy once the psychological side of their condition is addressed.

Along with these treatments, there is a National Eating Disorder Helpline. Call at the number 800-931-2237, or visit the webpage below.

National Eating Disorders Association:

%d bloggers like this: