Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.
Eating disorders are often blamed on the social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. However, the causes are usually more complex. An eating disorder may be associated with biological, genetic or environmental factors combined with a particular event that triggers the disorder. There may also be other factors that maintain the illness. Eating disorders -- such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder – include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males.
Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses that impact millions of people every year in the United States. Crow and colleagues found that crude mortality rates were 4.0% for anorexia nervosa, 3.9% for bulimia nervosa, and 5.2% for eating disorder not otherwise specified. They also found a high suicide rate in bulimia nervosa. The elevated mortality risks for bulimia nervosa and eating disorder not otherwise specified were similar to those for anorexia nervosa. It has not been certain whether mortality rates are high for other eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa and eating disorder not otherwise specified, the latter of which is the most common eating disorder diagnosis.
Treatment of an eating disorder generally includes a team approach. The team typically includes medical providers, mental health providers and dietitians — all with experience in eating disorders. Treatment depends on your specific type of eating disorder. But in general, it typically includes psychotherapy, nutrition education and medication. If your life is at risk, you may need immediate hospitalization. Medication can't cure an eating disorder. However, certain medications may help you control urges to binge or purge or to manage excessive preoccupations with food and diet. Drugs such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help with symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are frequently associated with eating disorders.