Would you be able to tell when your family member has an eating disorder? There are many myths about eating disorders, one of them being that someone with an eating disorder is skinny and malnourished or carries a lot of weight. However, the truth about eating disorders goes far beyond such unestablished notions.

In the US, eating disorders affect millions of people of all genders and ages, and the number keeps on growing. Therefore knowing what eating disorders are, recognizing them, and what you can do to help is essential.

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder refers to a mental and physical illness that impairs relationships with food, eating, and body image. It is characterized by disturbances in eating behaviors and related thoughts that lead to significant changes that interfere with life.

Types of Eating Disorders

There are three recognized eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

  • Anorexia nervosa occurs when a person restricts food intake, leading to weight loss or failure to gain weight. It results in significantly low body weight based on the person’s sex, height, and age. People with this eating disorder have an excessive fear of weight gain.
  • Bulimia nervosa- people with bulimia nervosa have regular and uncontrolled periods of overeating followed by purging. These episodes can occur many times a day to several days a week. Many people with bulimia nervosa may practice self-induced vomiting, take laxatives, or exercise excessively to compensate for the excessive eating. They tend to maintain a normal to above-average body weight.
  • Binge eating disorder is characterized by repetitive periods of excessive eating even when not hungry; then, the person experiences shame and self-disgust afterward. Although episodes of bingeing are not followed by purging, the person may engage in repetitive and sporadic diets.

The Sufferer may Look Healthy.

Contrary to the popular opinion that someone with an eating disorder is either skinny or overweight, they may look healthy. Most people praise and commend them for losing weight without knowing how they accomplished it. Eating disorders have physical and mental consequences, so doctors should take them seriously.

What Causes an Eating Disorder?

It is challenging to point out a single cause of eating disorders. Like many other mental disorders, social, psychological, and biological aspects may cause eating disorders. In most cases, the affected person has distorted thoughts and feelings about their body image.

The Risks and Side Effects of Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a health problem that affects someone’s psychological being, and it can be hard to overcome. Many people with eating disorders often experience other mental health problems such as anxiety, substance use, and mood disorders. Physical health consequences of eating disorders include brain dysfunction, kidney or heart failure, and severe malnutrition.

It can Affect Anyone.

Eating disorders affect anyone regardless of race, age, gender, and culture, but females are more susceptible than males. Most sufferers experience the condition from the age of 18-20.


It is possible to overcome an eating disorder when the affected person, health professionals, and loved ones work in the right direction.