What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders, among them anorexia nervosa (voluntary starvation) and bulimia nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging), occur frequently—but not exclusively—in affluent cultures. A disproportionate number of the diagnosed are young women in their teens and 20s, but the prevalence among young men has increased over the years.

Among the most baffling of conditions, eating disorders take on a life of their own so that eating, or not eating, becomes the focus of everyday existence. Both anorexia and bulimia are powered by a desire for control. But in the case of binge eating disorder, in which people gorge on large amounts of food and generally gain weight, sufferers feel that eating is out of their control.

Both culturally mediated body-image concerns and personality traits like perfectionism and obsessiveness play a large role in eating disorders, which are also often accompanied by depression and/or anxiety.

There is no magic cure for these conditions, which are often challenging to treat, and many cases can be acutely life-threatening, requiring hospitalization and forced nourishment.

Find a Treatment Center here.

Recent posts on Eating Disorders

Biscuits Before Breakfast: Recovery in Microcosm

By Emily T. Troscianko on September 30, 2016 in A Hunger Artist
Eating a plain biscuit reminds me of how different healthy eating needs to be during recovery.

Why Donald Trump Needs to Stop Fat-Shaming

By Alexis Conason Psy.D. on September 29, 2016 in Eating Mindfully
Over 80 million people watched as Trump used the presidential debate as platform for fat-shaming. Could his messages be increasing the rates of eating disorders in our children?
Wavebreak Media Ltd/BigStock

What Is DBT?

By Greta Gleissner LCSW on September 28, 2016 in Bottom's Up
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is an effective combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies. The goal of DBT is to transform destructive behaviors into positive outcomes.
By ProjectManhattan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

5 Reasons Why We Crave Comfort Foods

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on September 28, 2016 in Science of Choice
Comfort foods give distinctive pleasure or make us temporarily feel better.

Questioning Medical Authority by Accident

By Emily T. Troscianko on September 25, 2016 in A Hunger Artist
While I was giving a recovery talk at an eating disorders clinic, one of the patients asked whether I disagreed with her medical treatment plan. I said yes. Should I not have?

Parents as Agents of Change

By Joy Jacobs J.D., Ph.D. on September 22, 2016 in One More Bite
Do you feel empowered to help your child recover from an eating disorder? If not, here are some tips to help.
Dr. Joy Jacobs

One More Bite of One More Bite

By Joy Jacobs J.D., Ph.D. on September 19, 2016 in One More Bite
Where we have been and where we are going!

Cornerstone of Eating Disorder Recovery

Emotions are inescapable. Negative emotions are powerful. Attempts to rid them are what eating disorders thrive on. It is often easier to have an eating disorder than to feel bad

Football Fan? if Your Team Loses You May Gain Weight

Snacking while watching football may not be the only reason you'll gain weight
Dean Drobot/BigStock

Self-Compassion in Eating Disorder Recovery

By Greta Gleissner LCSW on September 12, 2016 in Bottom's Up
Your eating disorder does not define you. Cultivating self-compassion will help you to understand your experience and find peace within yourself.
CCO Public Domain/Free for Commerical Use

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

Why can’t I lose weight? Optimism is key to taking off the pounds. By Julie Jarrett Marcuse, Ph.D.

No More Diets... and Other AAP Recommendations

By Alexis Conason Psy.D. on September 06, 2016 in Eating Mindfully
New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics warn against dieting and other weight-focused interventions.

When Suicide Hits Home

By Susan McQuillan M.S., RDN on September 06, 2016 in Cravings
A child's suicide leaves his family with a jumble of emotions mixed with grief. Here's how one mother is trying to cope.

Has Obesity Prevention Led to a New Epidemic?

By Alexis Conason Psy.D. on September 06, 2016 in Eating Mindfully
Are eating disorders the collateral damage in our war against obesity?

Weight Loss Pills And Products Don't Work And Aren't Safe

By Allen J Frances M.D. on September 04, 2016 in Saving Normal
Diet pills and products aren't safe and don't work. Exercise, healthy diet and policy changes are the only solutions.

Counting Joy Points Not Calories? A New Angle on Weight Loss

By Laurel Mellin Ph.D. on September 03, 2016 in Rewired
Why not stop counting calories and start counting "joy points'?

Food Addiction Is Not About Willpower

Food addiction is an obsessiveness with food and with your body.

Dissecting the Clean-Eating Meme

By Emily T. Troscianko on August 29, 2016 in A Hunger Artist
At the heart of 'clean eating' is a potent metaphor. It's worth taking a long hard look at its threats and promises and the rest of its dangerous box of cognitive tricks.
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Ways Your Brain Keeps You From Maintaining Healthy Weight

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on August 25, 2016 in Science of Choice
Our cognitive biases lead to craving and overeating, and contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Farm Animal Suffering Leaves a Bad Taste In Your Mouth

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on August 24, 2016 in Animals and Us
In a series of recent experiments, researchers found that whether we think animals were raised humanely or on a factory farm affects the way their meat tastes.

Smoking in the Shower

What we do in private drives who we are in public.

What's the 4-Letter Word Your Diet Might Be Missing?

By Gregg McBride on August 20, 2016 in The Weight-ing Game
Wanting a quick fix (which can include fads, pills or even surgery), some dieters often ignore the actual "work" it takes to successfully lose excess weight once and for all.

The Danger of Talking to Children About Weight

By Alexis Conason Psy.D. on August 16, 2016 in Eating Mindfully
How our misguided quest for health and wellness in our children may be causing harm, and what to do about it.

The "Electrochemical Persuasion" of Neuromodulation

Deliberate stimulation of the brain to manipulate behavior reads like something out of George Orwell’s "1984," but treatment of eating disorders & obesity is no longer "brainless"

Implementing Attachment Theory in Treating Eating Disorders

Understanding the tenants of Attachment Theory and finding ways to operationalize theory in providing solid & appropriate treatment is useful regardless of how the issues got there

How Men Feel About Their Bodies

By Susan McQuillan M.S., RDN on August 10, 2016 in Cravings
Are you a man with concerns about your appearance? You're not alone!

Coaching Our Children

Meal time can be fraught with emotions and conflicts when dealing with an eating disorder. Here are a few tips to avoid the role of food police and maintain a supportive stance.

Learning to Love My Body—All of It

Take active measures to heal your body dissatisfaction and I promise that over time, it will get easier.

Hunger: It's All in Your Head

By Susan McQuillan M.S., RDN on August 01, 2016 in Cravings
Your brain and body work together to tell you when to eat and when to stop.

You Know That The Behavior Is Harmful. Why Can't You Stop?

You’ve promised yourself that you will NOT (pick one: have that drink, binge on that food, take those pills, engage in self-harm, place that bet, etcetera). Then you get home.