Eating disorders are characterized by an extreme and disruptive obsession with food, eating, and nutrition. Many sufferers of eating disorders also have body dysmorphia, or unrealistic body image. It doesn’t help that our culture presents such unattainable and unhealthy images of what a “perfect body” is supposed to look like — images that we internalize from childhood.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 20 million women and 10 million men will battle an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. There is no single cause for an eating disorder: it’s usually a combination of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. The most common eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa (Anorexia), Bulimia Nervosa (Bulimia), Binge-Eating Disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and Pica.
If left untreated, eating disorders can become serious. They can cause nutritional deficiencies; with severe anorexia, organ failure and heart attack is possible. In these cases, hospitalization may be necessary. Other treatment options include therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are popular choices), nutritional counseling, and medication. Outpatient therapy at eating disorder treatment centers can be very helpful, and eating disorders support groups like Overeaters Anonymous are great options too.