Understanding Eating Disorders

The DSM-5 defines an eating disorder as a mental health disorder associated with intense fixations on food, such that a patient experiences life-changing physical, social, and psychological effects. Some estimates place rates in the US population at around 30 million, with women making up around 66 percent of those numbers.

Someone with an eating disorder often has a second disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or OCD. An eating disorder is a mental health issue that can seriously impact someone’s physical health. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder, contact us today to discuss your therapeutic options.

Different Types of Eating Disorders

There are several types of eating disorders defined in the DSM-5. These include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Rumination disorder
  • Pica
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
  • Binge Eating Disorder

These disorders manifest in different ways, but they all have one thing in common. In these disorders, the person with the disorder fixates on food to the point that it interferes with their ability to go about daily life. Beyond that, their symptoms vary.

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Extremely limited intake of calories
  • Exercising to excess
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Severe weight loss
  • Frightened of being overweight even when weight is very low

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Patient binge eats (excessive consumption of calories for 2 hours) then purges at least one time a week for three months
  • Purging in the form of calorie restriction, excessive exercise, vomiting, or intake of laxatives or diuretics
  • Body dysmorphia

Rumination Disorder

  • Patient chews foods but does not swallow, spitting it out instead
  • No diagnosed gastrointestinal issues
  • Symptoms are present for at least one month
  • No comorbid eating disorder


  • Consuming substances that are not food
  • No cultural or developmental triggers

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

  • Patient strictly oversees quantity and type of food consumed
  • Restrictions cause physical or mental health distress
  • No body dysmorphia
  • No fear of weight gain

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Patient experiences recurring episodes of overeating
  • Episodes occur at least once a week for at least three months

The Causes

As with many mental health disorders, it is not always easy to link an eating disorder to a direct and specific cause. That being said, most experts consider biological and emotional triggers as at the root of most eating disorders. Preexisting mental health disorders, such as OCD, can trigger these conditions, as well.

While women are most severely affected by eating disorders, anyone can experience these conditions. Not fitting the stereotype should never prevent someone from getting help. E

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

In binge eating disorder, an individual consumes a large amount of excess calories over long periods of time. As an example, eating one or two pieces of pizza is quite common; a person with this disorder might eat the entire pizza, then continue to eat more immediately afterwards. Symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Excessive eating that goes well beyond average quantities
  • Feelings of guilt over the bingeing
  • Eating so much it causes physical discomfort
  • Hiding your eating
  • Eating when you are not hungry
  • No purging

The DSM-5’s diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder states that the individual must have a binge once a week for at least 3 months in order to receive a diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder comes with a lot of guilt and humiliation, leading many to refuse or avoid treatment. For those with binge eating disorder, it is important to recognize that they need care and that caring professionals are here to help. Treatments including therapy, medicine, and nutritional counseling will all help individuals avoid unhealthy habits and return to a healthy lifestyle.

Patients receiving binge eating disorder treatment may participate in CBT, dialectical behavioral treatment, or individual psychotherapy. Group therapy can also help.

A few drugs have been shown to have an effect on binge eating disorder, such as lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse). They may come with the possibility of addiction; as such, doctors usually recommend them only when other treatments don’t work as well.

Lifestyle changes can be effective, too, including:

  • Avoiding diet fads
  • Social bonding with family and friends
  • Starting the day with a healthy breakfast
  • Exercising
  • Avoiding trigger foods

Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

Eating disorders may have a serious, negative effect on the physical health of a person. Whether you have symptoms of an eating disorder, or someone you know does, it’s important to find treatment for these illnesses.

Social stigma surrounding these conditions prevents many from seeking treatment. Anyone seeking therapy should recognize that qualified mental health providers do not pass judgement and always exercise objectivity and integrity when delivering care for mental health disorders.

Contact our offices today to discuss your options.