• Fact Sheet: Eating Disorders

    Eating disorders are classified as abnormal eating behaviors and include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and compulsive over-eating. People suffering from eating disorders are often preoccupied with food, weight, and body image. These disorders represent maladaptive coping mechanisms and may a way for the individual to deal with the stress and conflict of daily life when other more positive strategies are not available.

    • Anorexia is defined as the inability to reach or to keep a minimum weight required considering the person’s height and age.
    • Bulimia is characterized by an eating pattern of repeated episodes binge eating followed by attempts to keep from gaining weight by purging or utilizing laxatives and/or diuretics excessively. It is common to observe behaviors that alternate between restricting and bingeing.
    • Compulsive overeating involves eating “binges” when excessive amounts of food are consumed but are not intended to control weight.
    • Compulsive exercising is frequently associated with eating disorders.

    Eating disorders follow patterns that are similar to “addictive” behaviors and may involve a genetic as well as environmental component. Sometimes a relative or close family member of the individual will have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, a substance abuse disorder or a mood disorder.

    Females are more frequently diagnosed with eating disorders than males, although the number of men suffering from some form of eating disorders is rising. The disorders generally appear in adolescence or early adulthood, but the incidence in childhood is rising.

    Although most suicidal persons give warning signs of their suicidal intentions, others are often unaware of the significance of these warnings, or they are unsure what to do about them.

    Some signs and symptoms of a possible

    eating disorder include:

    • Unhealthy restriction of food
    • Weight loss equal to more than 15% of the person’s usual weight
    • Exaggerated fear associated with weight gain
    • Distorted perception of body thinness, shape or weight
    • Low body self-esteem
    • Absence of menstrual cycles in females
    • Binge eating
    • Self-induced vomiting
    • Overuse of laxatives
    • Inappropriate use of diuretics and enemas
    • Prolonged fasting
    • Excessive exercising
    • Low self-esteem
    • Fear of loss of control

    Additional information about eating disorders may be found on our Web-based Resources page.