Frequently asked questions and answers if you or someone you know is presenting with an eating disorder or related symptoms are offered below:
What is an eating disorder?
Do males also get eating disorders?
How are eating disorders treated?
While researching possible treatments, keep the following in mind:
- Treatment often involves a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, medical and psychiatric management.
- Treatment can take place in an outpatient, partial or day treatment program or 24-hour setting, i.e. residential or hospital setting.
- Treatment can be enhanced by the involvement and participation of family/friends.
- Treatment can be enhanced with the use of recovered professionals or mentors.
- Treatment may require hospitalization, depending upon the severity of the problem.
With any treatment program it is important to explore the behavioral symptoms and any underlying issues that may have caused or serve to perpetuate the eating disorder. Research supports that individuals with eating disorders can become fully recovered.
What are some symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though under-weight.
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 denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea,( i.e. absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles). A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen administration.
Restricting Type: during the current episode of anorexia nervosa, the person has not regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas).
Binge-Eating/Purging Type: during the current episode of anorexia nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in binge eating or purging behavior (i.e., self induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas).
What are some symptoms or characteristics of Bulimia Nervosa?
- Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
- Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting , misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.
- The binge eating and other compensatory behaviors both occur, on the average, at least twice a week for three months.
- Self evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
- The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa.
Purging Type: during the current episode of bulimia nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in self -induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
Non purging Type: during the current episode of bulimia nervosa, the person has used other inappropriate compensatory behaviors, such as fasting or excessive exercise but has not regularly engaged in self -induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
What are some symptoms or characteristics of binge eating disorder?
- Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a short period of time (within any two hour period)
- Lack of control over eating during the binge episode (i.e. the feeling that one cannot stop eating).
Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating alone because you are embarrassed by how much you’re eating
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating
- Marked distress regarding binge eating is present
- Binge eating occurs, on average, at least 2 days a week for six months
- The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (i.e. purging, excessive exercise, etc.) and does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.
Distinguishing people who overeat from people with binge eating disorder is like distinguishing dieting from anorexia; it is a matter of definition and degree. The marked distress regarding binge eating is present. It is a common misconception that all people with binge eating disorder are overweight, even though most of them are.
What are some symptoms or characteristics of Exercise Addiction?
What are some symptoms or characteristics of activity disorders?
- Fatigue; loss of emotional vigor
- Reduction in performance and decreased concentration
- Decreased blood lactate, leading to soreness and stiffness
- Autonomic sympathetic insufficiency; inhibited lactic acid response
- Immunosuppression “acute phase” response
- Increased compulsivity
- Decreased anabolic (testosterone) response
- Decreased maximum oxygen uptake
- Increased catabolic (cortisol) response, also known as muscle wasting
- Hypothalamic dysfunction
- Increased central serotonin and GABA adrenal exhaustion
I have heard that people with eating disorders often have other problems and diagnoses. What are they?
- Substance abuse
- Mood Disorders
- Personality disorders
- Process disorders
What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
What medical tests are completed for persons with eating disorders?
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Chem-20 panel: Measures electrolytes, liver, kidney, and pancreatic function
- Sma-7 or electrolytes: Usually done with Chem-20, but sometimes alone
- Magnesium and phosphorous levels
- Serum amylase: Indicates pancreatic function and possibly purging
- Thyroid and parathyroid panel: indicates level of metabolic function
- Hormone levels
- EKG: measures heart function
- Chest X-Ray
- Lower esophageal sphincter pressure studies for reflux
- Lactose deficiency tests
- Total bowel transit time
- Protein and iron deficiency tests
- Bone mineral density test
What are some of the medical complications of eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, etc.)?
- Acid Reflux
- Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle)
- Bone density problems (Osteoporosis)
- Bruising of the skin
- Cardiovascular problems
- Dental problems
- Digestive difficulties
- Dry skin, hair and nails and hair loss
- Edema (swelling of soft tissues resulting from excess water accumulation from laxative or diuretic abuse)
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Gastrointestinal complaints (cramps, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, incontinence)
- Hypo- and Hyperglycemia (low/high blood sugar)
- Hyponatremia (low sodium)
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Ketoacidosis (high level of acids build up when the body burns fat instead of sugar/carbs)
- Kidney infection and failure
- Lanugo (soft downy hair on face, back, and arms)
- Liver failure
- Low blood pressure or hypotension
- Low body temperature
- Low platelet count
- Muscle Atrophy
- Parotid gland swelling
- Sleep problems
- Tearing of esophagus
- Weakness and fatigue
Nonprofit Partners in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders
The Academy for Eating Disorders is a global professional association committed to leadership in eating disorders research, education, treatment and prevention.
ANAD promotes eating disorder awareness, prevention and recovery through supporting, educating and connecting individuals, families and professionals.
BEDA is the national organization focused on increasing prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Binge Eating Disorder and associated weight stigma.
The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action is working in Washington, D.C. to increase awareness, educate policymakers and promote understanding about the disabling and life-threatening effects of eating disorders.
The Klarman Family Foundation seeks to identify areas of unmet need and to advance solutions to addressing them. We believe passionately in the promise and importance of creative thinking, strategic leadership and strong organizations to help bring about change. Our intention as a Foundation is to help make measurable progress in improving the lives of others.
The Multi-service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) is a nonprofit organization that provides early detection, education and recovery assistance to prevent and treat eating disorders.
NEDA supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care.
Project Heal funds inpatient, residential and outpatient treatment for individuals who want to recover but do not have the financial means to do so.
The College Response program, developed by Screening for Mental Health (SMH), promotes the prevention, early detection and treatment of prevalent, often under-diagnosed and treatable mental health disorders and alcohol problems.