Eating Disorders

January 08, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Many people develop unhealthy relationships with food.  People may eat when they feel the pain of loss, stress, or even out of boredom.  While none of those behaviors is an eating disorder, when taken to the extreme these behaviors can lead to eating disorders.

Eating disorders affect men as well as women, although eating disorders tend to be more prevalent in women.  Eating disorders typically include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder:

Anorexia nervosa – typically just referred to as anorexia, affects about 0.9% of females and 0.3% of males.  According to Medscape, anorexia is characterized by a weight loss of at least 15% of expected body weight, fear of weight gain, dietary habits that prevent weight gain, and a disturbance in the way weight and body image are perceived.

Bulimia – occurs in about 1.5% of women and in 0.5% of men.  Bulimia is characterized by cycles of food bingeing and food purging.  While self-induced vomiting is often used as a purging method, some people with bulimia may exercise excessively, fast, or abuse substances to rid the body of the calories taken in through bingeing 

Binge eating – the lifetime prevalence of binge eating disorder is about 3.5% in women and 2% in men.  In binge eating disorder, the person compulsively overeats.  This should not be confused with common overeating, which anyone may experience.  For someone with binge eating disorder, they feel they cannot stop eating once they start and are typically driven by psychological reasons.

While all eating disorders can seriously impact a person’s health and wellbeing, the good news is that there are therapies available to help.  Occasionally medication is used, but, in most cases, psychotherapy is an effective way of treating eating disorders.

Note:  Statistics on eating disorders provided by:  The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.


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