Eating disorders are mental disorders defined by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect a person's physical or mental health. They include binge eating disorder where people eat a large amount in a short period of time, anorexia nervosa where people eat very little and thus have a low body weight, bulimia nervosa where people eat a lot and then try to rid themselves of the food, pica where people eat non-food items, rumination disorder where people regurgitate food, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder where people have a lack of interest in food, and a group of other specified feeding or eating disorders. Anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse are common among people with eating disorders. These disorders do not include obesity
The cause of eating disorders is not clear. Both genetic and environmental factors appear to play a role. Cultural idealization of thinness is believed to contribute. Eating disorders for example affect about 12% of dancers. Those who have experienced sexual abuse are also more likely to develop eating disorders. Some disorders such as pica and rumination disorder occur more often in people with intellectual disabilities. Only one eating disorder can be diagnosed at a given time
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.
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help you learn how to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones. This may include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is commonly used in eating disorder treatment, especially for bulimia and binge-eating disorder. You learn how to monitor your eating and your moods, develop problem-solving skills and explore healthy ways to cope with stressful situations. Psychotherapy can also help improve your relationships and your mood.
Family-based therapy (FBT). FBT is an evidence-based treatment for children and teenagers with eating disorders. The family is involved in making sure that the child or other family member follows healthy-eating patterns and maintains a healthy weight.