Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions and your ability to function in important areas of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. These behaviors can significantly impact your body's ability to get adequate nutrition.
Eating disorders can harm the heart, digestive system, bones, and teeth and mouth, and lead to other diseases. Eating disorders often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages. With treatment, you can return to healthier eating habits and sometimes reverse serious complications caused by the eating disorder.
Globally, eating disorders result in about 7,000 deaths a year as of 2010, making them the mental illnesses with the highest mortality rate. Anorexia nervosa is relatively common among young women. While the overall incidence rate remained stable over the past decades, there has been an increase in the high risk-group of 15-19 year old girls. It is unclear whether this reflects earlier detection of anorexia nervosa cases or an earlier age at onset.
Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are the most common eating disorders. People with anorexia use extreme efforts to control their weight and shape, which often significantly interferes with their health and life activities. Bulimia nervosa commonly called bulimia is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. Many people with bulimia also restrict their eating during the day, which often leads to more binges eating and purging. The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. There may be many causes, such as Certain people may have genes that increase their risk of developing eating disorders. People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. Eating disorders are diagnosed based on signs, symptoms and eating habits.
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.