Eating disorders are serious illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person's eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
People with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeardley, severely restrict the amount of food they eat and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. While many young women and men with this disorder die from complications associated with starvation, others die of suicide. In women, suicide is much more common in those with anorexia than with most other mental disorders.
People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy or relatively weight.
People with binge-eating disorder lose control over their eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese.
Adequate nutrition, reducing excessive exercise and stopping purging behaviors are the foundation of treatment. Treatment plans are tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:
- Individual, group and/or family psychotherapy.
- Medical care and monitoring.
- Nutritional counseling.
Psychotherapies where parents of adolescents with anorexia nervosa assume responsibility for feeding their child appear to be very effective in helping people gain weight and improve eating habits and moods.
To reduce or eliminate binge-eating and purging eating behaviors, people may undergo cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that helps them learn how to identify distorted or unhelpful thinking patterns and recognize and change inaccurate beliefs.
Evidence shows that medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotic or mood stabilizers are helpful for tretating eating disorders and other co-occurring illnesses such as anxiety or depression.