What are Eating Disorders?

In our body-conscious culture, most of us are guilty of obsessing about how we look from time to time. But when those thoughts lead to drastic attempts to lose weight and a total preoccupation with food, it’s considering an eating disorder.

The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. People with anorexia try extremely hard get to a very low body weight, often by starving themselves. They have an intense fear of gaining weight and may exercise compulsively and abuse laxatives. Unlike people with anorexia, those with bulimia eat massive amounts of food quickly (known as binging), and try to get rid of the extra calories by vomiting (a.k.a. purging) or over-exercising. Binge eating disorder, which is just as common in men as in women, means that someone eats excessive amounts of food, but doesn’t try to exercise or purge like someone with bulimia might.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. It’s estimated that up to 24 million Americans are suffering from an eating disorder. Since eating disorders are more likely to end in death than any other mental health condition, it’s critical to get support.

What are the warning signs?

  • Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
  • Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
  • Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
  • Excessive exercise
  • Leaving during meals to use the bathroom
  • Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal
  • Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits
  • Eating in secret

Read about warning signs for specific eating disorders— anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

How can I get help?

Anytime you are in crisis you can call or chat with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Treatment for eating disorders usually involves a combination of therapy, nutrition education, medication, and sometimes hospitalization. You can call The National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237 or chat online for support and to learn about treatment options.

If you want to get connected to mental health treatment center in your area, use the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator or call 1-800-662-HELP.


  • Kristin

    While all this is good information, there needs to be more information available about EDNOS or OSFED. Most people don’t know about EDNOS/OSFED, but it’s widely spreading.

    Posted on

  • Katherine

    During school days, I only eat one meal a day and it’s dinner because I know my parents would question why I don’t eat dinner. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch but I’m not anorexic. I’m still a “healthy” weight even if I do feel fat. If anything, I should be gaining more weight I think but I want to lose weight. Do I have an eating disorder? I know for sure I’m not anorexic but…

    Posted on

    • Vibrant Communications

      Katherine, ti. hank you for reaching out to our community. We’re here for those struggling through any situation, including questions about eating issues. We want to help you through this difficult time. Please call any time at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

      Posted on

  • Ben Spock

    Thank you for writing this informative article. One of my best friends was detected with an eating disorder. On reading a lot of articles on the internet I realized that eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect a person’s emotional and physical health. Eating disorders can affect every organ system in the body, and people struggling with an eating disorder need to seek professional help. Consuming fewer calories than you need means that the body breaks down its own tissue to use for fuel. This affects not only your weight but something much more like cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, endocrine system and much more. Also, there are many online sites such as Labfinder, econolabs, evrlywell and many more which help you to book any test online easily. So, if you’re concerned you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia, getting professional help is the first step on the path of recovery.

    Posted on

    • Vibrant Communications

      @Ben Spock You’re very welcome. We’re glad to be a resource for anyone struggling through tough times. Don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you need support, and please pass our number along to others who may need it.

      Posted on

  • Kelly

    Sometimes I feel too big, and that hurts. I am healthy and normal though. I am worried that I will develop an eating disorder if I try to lose a little weight. I still have a little excess fat on me, but I am not fat be any means. Should I lose a little?

    Posted on

    • Janelle

      You should maybe consider eating healthier or exercising just a little more, but without any huge life changes. Tell your parents and doctor about your worries and ask for help if you need it. If losing a little weight will help you feel more confident, it may be something you want to try, but don’t take it very far. Maybe have a salad with chicken and garlic bread instead of spaghetti and meatballs at a restaurant, or toast and fruit instead of sugary cereal for breakfast. But still eat something at meals. And remember, I’m rooting for you!

      Posted on

  • mireya

    What if you eat but sometime you don’t eat after I eat I feel like I am fat mostly people at school things about me and about my body is that a disorder

    Posted on

  • 1v1 Battle

    Really, only I can see the small flaws that people don’t notice, and then I have low self-esteem. I used to be like that too but I still want to change and make it more perfect

    Posted on