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Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders may be more prevalent than you realize. The latest statistics indicate that more than 30 million people in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder; 10 million of those individuals are men.

Eating disorders involve severe disturbances in eating behavior.  The two main types of eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia.  Both of these disorders are impulse control disorders, which are distinctive from substance use disorders.  Anorexia and bulimia are typically physically harmful and can even become life threatening due related medical complications.  Eating disordered behaviors appear to be increasing in younger populations.


Eating disorders have been stereotyped as a female disorder. Consequently, men and boys may not be properly diagnosed as often as females.  Also, males and boy’s concerns about self-image might present differently than females. For example, women worry about weight while men worry about a lack of muscle or muscular definition.  Moreover, suicidal ideations are common with both anorexia and bulimia.


The DSM 5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) defines anorexia nervosa as restriction of energy intake about requirements, leading to a significantly low body weighting the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.  Another criterion is intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain, even though at a significantly low weight.  The other criteria are disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

Individuals with anorexia disorder don’t feel better as they get thinner but actually feel worse due to not being satisfied with their self-image.  They continue to get thinner and thinner, which increase health risks.  The most common mental health symptoms are delusions about body shape, weight, and denial of seriousness of being low weight. Another common delusion is thinking people are trying to make them fat by wanting them to eat more often or gain weight.  Anorexic clients have a difficult time comprehending and accepting that related behaviors are a serious health risk.

Individuals with anorexia have physiological symptoms causing health deterioration over time.  Common symptoms of this disorder are intolerance to cold, dry skin; increase fine body hair, low blood pressure, edema, possible lethal symptoms, metabolic changes, potassium losses and cardiac damage.  The most common physiological complication leading to death is cardiac arrest caused by electrolytes and fluid imbalance.


Individuals with bulimia consume large amount of food in short period of time followed by purging in order to prevent weight gain.  Bulimic clients feel out of control when it comes to binge eating and purging.  Bulimia typically has a later onset than anorexia.  Bulimia is most common in young women and, as previously mentioned, is often precede by anorexia.

The DSM 5 defines bulimia as recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics or other medications, fasting; or excessive exercise.  The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months.

Recovery is Possible

The facts about eating disorders are sobering, but here’s the good news: statistics also show that up to 80 percent of patients who receive and complete eating disorder treatment will recover or improve significantly.

To learn more about your treatment options, please call us at 847-440-2281 to set up an appointment with a therapist or you may go to  We’re here to help you along the path to a full and lasting recovery.