Eating disorders are characterized by extremes in eating behavior—either too much or too little—or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape. Eating disorders frequently occur in people with other mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse issues.
- Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is a serious and potentially life-threatening mental illness. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder defined by an inability to maintain one’s body weight within 15 percent of their Ideal Body Weight (IBW). Other essential features of this disorder include an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted image of one’s body, denial of the seriousness of the illness, and—in females—amenorrhea, an absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles when they were otherwise expected to occur.
- Bulimia Nervosa
People with bulimia nervosa are overly concerned with their body’s shape and weight—they engage in detrimental behaviors in an attempt to control their body image. Bulimia nervosa is often characterized by a destructive pattern of binging (eating too much food) and inappropriate, reactionary behaviors (called purging) to control one’s weight following these episodes. Purging behaviors are potentially dangerous and can consist of a wide variety of actions “to get rid of everything I ate.” This can include self-induced vomiting and the abuse of laxatives, enemas or diuretics (e.g., caffeine). Other behaviors such as “fasting” or restrictive dieting following binge-eating episodes are also common, as well as excessive exercising.
- Binge Eating Disorder
Individuals with binge eating disorder (BED) experience episodes of rapid food consumption: periods in which they “lose control” of the ability to stop eating. They may eat until after they are already full or at times when they were not hungry to begin with. For some people, binging can cause a sense of relief or fulfillment which fades as the episode progresses and leads to feelings of disgust, guilt, worthlessness or depression after the episode is over.