Eating disorders are more common than you may think. Surveysestimatethat 20 million women and 10 million men in the US will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. And some health experts are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a rise in new or recurring eating disorders.
Eating disorders can affect anyone, including celebrities and athletes.Taylor Swiftis one celebrity who opened up about her history with disordered eating in theNetflix documentary, Miss Americanawhich came out in early 2020.
Someone as high-profile as Swift coming out and talking about starving herself sparks a discussion about the intense scrutiny women endure about their weight and appearance, and the disordered eating behaviors many use to achieve an "ideal" body. Those behaviors are dangerous, often difficult to treat and can even be deadly.
Read on to learn about what you should know about eating disorders and how to get help if you or someone you know struggles with those behaviors.
Eating disorders can take many forms
Anorexia (self-starvation) and bulimia (bingeing followed by compensation like vomiting or excessive exercise) are two of the most commonly-known eating disorders, but there are many different types. Someone can also have disordered eating behaviors (like obsessively counting calories or categorizing each type of food as "good" or "bad") without meeting the criteria for a diagnosis.
According to the the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders can fall into the following categories:
- Anorexia Nervosa -- self-starvation
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder -- having an obsession with viewing the body in an imaginary way, the person suffering often sees themselves in a mirror as bigger than they actually are
- Bulimia Nervosa -- bingeing large amounts of food, followed by a pattern of compensating like vomiting, over exercising or using laxatives
- Binge Eating Disorder -- eating large amounts of food with feelings of loss of self control and guilt
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder -- restricting or avoiding certain foods to the point where someone can't meet their nutritional needs
- Other or Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder -- if someone meets some of the symptoms of a categorized eating disorder or displays other behaviors that cause negative emotional or physical effects
It's important to know that anyone can have an eating disorder, even though they are stereotypically tied to young, straight and white females. Eating disorders can happen to anyone at any age, regardless of sex, gender, race or sexual orientation.
It is also a misconception that someone has to be thin or "skinny" to be diagnosed with an eating disorder or disordered eating habits. The distinguishing factor is not how much someone weighs, but the manner in which their relationship with food or body image impacts their daily lives. Eating disorders are just as concerning and harmful for someone with a larger body as someone with a smaller one.
What can lead to an eating disorder?
Eating disorders can be triggered by a number of complex factors. According to the National Eating Disorders Association(NEDA) those can include "a combination of long-standing behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors."
Eating disorders are not a "choice," and it's hard to pinpoint exact causes, which have roots in genetics, emotional health and social environment.
Some common experiences known to trigger eating disorders, according toNEDA include:
Bullying.Whether online, on social media or in person, bullying is a major trigger for many people. Whether in real life or online, even just one encounter with a bully can affect someone for the rest of their life.
Comments from others. Any type of comment, about someone's body, weight, or appearance can be a trigger. In a Variety interview about the documentary, Swift recalled the first time she was on the cover of a magazine. "And the headline was like 'Pregnant at 18?' And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment."
Perfectionism.A major risk factor for eating disorders is perfectionism or someone with perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionists often place extreme amounts of pressure on themselves to be perceived in a certain way.
A history of anxiety.Research has shown that those with a history of an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop an eating disorder.
Weight stigma and societal or media pressure.Society has consistently praised an "ideal body image." This norm says, especially for women, that the thinner you are, the more beautiful and attractive people will find you. This harmful image, especially prevalent in social media, is also tied to media norms that place immense pressure on women and teenage girls to look sexy. This type of objectification of women's bodies is also one of the driving factors behind harmful attitudes that are tied to high rates of violence and sexual abuse against women.
Trauma.If someone experiences trauma that's left untreated or unresolved, it can be a driving factor in an eating disorder. Studies have showna strong link between bulimia and binge eating disorder, specifically in someone who's experienced trauma. One likely cause is that someone who's experienced trauma feels the need to control something in their life when everything else feels out of control.
How to navigate the media to help protect yourself from body shame
When you scroll through social media images or see people on TV or in the movies, it's natural to compare yourself with others. But just because that's a natural instinct, doesn't mean you don't have control over what you see.
Swift mentions that when she was healing from her disordered eating, she found people like Jameela Jamil (an actress and leader in the body positive space) and Brene Brown helpful for navigating shame, especially as it relates to body image.
If you follow accounts that praise unhealthy and unrealistic body image, unfollow or "mute" them from your feed so you don't see them. Find and follow more body-positive people like Jamil, Lizzo, and Katie Sturino among many others.
How to get help
If you think you may have an eating disorder, it's important to reach out for help. If you're not sure if you need help, the National Eating Disorder Association has an online screening tool that can help you get clarity around if you should seek professional help. You can also contact their helpline if you need to talk to someone.
Treatment for an eating disorder usually involves a number of approaches, including nutritional and psychological counseling. Treatment options will address the physical and medical symptoms, as well as the other personal factors that could be contributing to it.
For more information on how to get help and treatment options, visit the National Eating Disorder Association.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Treatments include: Psychotherapy: A mental health professional can determine the best psychotherapy for your situation. Many people with eating disorders improve with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of therapy helps you understand and change distorted thinking patterns that drive behaviors and emotions.What are the six 6 major components of food? ›
There are six major nutrients – water, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.Why do we eat 6 classes? ›
Food is needed for growth, it provides nutrients to the body, it provides energy to the body. Food is extremely important for keeping the immune system of the body healthy. A food is something that provides nutrients.What's the most serious eating disorder? ›
Experts consider anorexia nervosa to be the most deadly of all mental illnesses because it has the highest mortality rate. For this reason, we can consider it to be the most severe of the 12 types of eating disorders.
Eva Schoen, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and clinical director of eating disorders services at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, says binge eating disorder, or BED, is the most common eating disorder, even though it's not talked about as much as other eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia.Which eating disorder is probably the most common? ›
Binge eating is actually the most common type of eating disorder in the United States. Binge eaters tend to eat large quantities of food in a short period of time. They may feel out-of-control during their binge and eat whatever's handy, whether they want it or not.Is it a choice to have an eating disorder? ›
It is also very important to note that families or the person suffering are not the cause of eating disorders. Eating disorders are not a choice. They are not a fad, phase, or type of lifestyle. The person suffering needs professional help just as if that person had broken a leg.What is the first goal for most treatment plans for anorexia? ›
The first goal of treatment is getting back to a healthy weight. You can't recover from anorexia without returning to a healthy weight and learning proper nutrition. Those involved in this process may include: Your primary care doctor, who can provide medical care and supervise your calorie needs and weight gain.What's Orthorexia? ›
Individuals living with orthorexia are extremely focused – and often obsessive – over the quality and purity of their food. Individuals with this condition often limit “go foods” to those that are organic, farm fresh, whole, raw and/or vegan. The quantity of food is typically less important than that quality.What are two red flags for anorexia? ›
If you are concerned that you or someone you know has anorexia, watch for these red flags that may indicate the need for anorexia treatment: Frequent comments about feeling fat or overweight, despite weight loss. Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
Some examples of these influences that contribute to an individual's food choices include individual factors, such as knowledge, personal taste preference, mood, hunger level, health status, special diet requirements, ethnicity, and personal income.What are the six classes of food and their deficiency? ›
They are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water and fibre. These groups include about 50 nutritional items. They are necessary for good health and growth in which each of these nutrients plays an essential role in the functioning of the human body.What are the 6 essential nutrients and why are they called essential? ›
There are six basic nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. All of these are classified as essential. Your body requires essential nutrients to function properly. These nutrients must be obtained from the foods you eat; your body cannot make them on its own.Why should you not eat only one type of food for Class 6? ›
Our body needs a variety of macro and micronutrients for the proper functioning of our body. This requirement is fulfilled by eating a variety of food and vegetables. Sticking to just one kind of fruit or vegetable can lead to nutritional deficiency. Fill your plate with a variety of fruits and veggies.What is a food class 6? ›
Answer: Eatables taken by human beings and animals which provide them energy for various activities, for growth and good health, are called food.What age is most likely to have an eating disorder? ›
The most common age of onset is between 12-25. Although much more common in females, 10 percent of cases detected are in males.Which eating disorder is the hardest to treat? ›
Anorexia is difficult to treat and has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in adolescence.What is the number one eating disorder in the US? ›
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., according to the National Eating Disorders Association. It's characterized by episodes of eating large amounts of food, often quickly and to the point of discomfort.Which eating disorder can be fatal? ›
Anorexia nervosa can be fatal.
It has an extremely high death (mortality) rate compared with other mental disorders. People with anorexia are at risk of dying from medical complications associated with starvation. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
Psychological and emotional problems such as low self-esteem, perfectionism, behavioral inflexibility, impulsive behavior, and troubled relationships are huge contributors to eating disorders.
Anorexia nervosa is the least common of the three eating disorders, but it is often the most serious.What behavior is associated with eating disorders? ›
Behaviors associated with eating disorders including restrictive eating or avoidance of certain foods, binge eating, purging by vomiting or laxative misuse or compulsive exercise. These behaviors can become driven in ways that appear similar to an addiction.What are 3 examples of disordered eating behaviors? ›
Some of the most common types of disordered eating are dieting and restrictive eating. Others include self-induced vomiting, binge eating, and laxative abuse. (see Dangerous Eating Behaviours for a more complete list). There are several types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.What ethnicity is most likely to have an eating disorder? ›
Lauderdale explained to Psychiatric News that many studies have limited eating disorders to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which have been reported to be up to six times more prevalent in white women than black women.What is it called when you don't like eating? ›
Overview. Anorexia is a general loss of appetite or a loss of interest in food. When some people hear the word “anorexia,” they think of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.Has everyone had an eating disorder? ›
When it comes down to it, no— not everyone has an eating disorder. Not everyone spends their days trying to find ways to be in control of their diet and their life. Not everyone has the perpetual anxiety of how they will get out of the next meal.How does the brain develop an eating disorder? ›
NIH-funded study finds changes can affect food intake control circuitry and cause disorders to progress. Researchers have found that eating disorder behaviors, such as binge-eating, alter the brain's reward response process and food intake control circuitry, which can reinforce these behaviors.Can I say I have an eating disorder without being diagnosed? ›
If you have cause to suspect an eating disorder within yourself or believe a loved one is struggling, don't waste time. While you can't diagnose an eating disorder, you can be perceptive of the signs and make appropriate judgment calls of when it's time to get someone professionally and medically involved.How do I know if I've had an eating disorder? ›
You develop rigid rules around eating.
If you're eliminating entire food groups, limiting intake, or generally being inflexible about what you'll eat and where, that could be the sign of an eating disorder.
People with eating disorders can be underweight, can be overweight, and anywhere between. Regardless what someone may weigh, eating disorder behaviors can have serious—sometimes fatal—health consequences.
(See "Anorexia nervosa in adults and adolescents: The refeeding syndrome".) Psychotherapy — Standard treatment of anorexia nervosa includes psychotherapy.Which is the most common technique to treat anorexia nervosa? ›
However, many people with anorexia do see an improvement with therapy. CBT and IPT are the most established treatments for binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa. FBT is the most established type of therapy for children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa, and may also be beneficial for those with bulimia nervosa.Do I have atypical anorexia? ›
Atypical Anorexia Symptoms
An intense fear of gaining weight or fear of being in a larger body. A drive to change one's weight, body size or shape, at any cost. Dissatisfaction with one's body size, shape or appearance, a distorted body image or body dysmorphic disorder. Low self-esteem, mood swings, anxiety or ...
In our clinical experience, it is not unusual for adolescents who present with frank ARFID to simultaneously report or subsequently develop traditional eating-disorder psychopathology.What is rigid eating? ›
In general, you are a rigid dieter if you eat in a way that goes against your personal preferences to the extent that it hurts more than it helps you. Some rigidity is a good thing. If you give in to every craving and eat as much junk food as you like, you'll have a hard time staying lean.What is bulimia jaw? ›
Bulimia jaw is a term for a number of symptoms that can result from the purging aspect of bulimia nervosa (BN). It can refer to swelling, intense pain, and a misalignment of the jaw, and sometimes require surgery to correct. Further Reading. Bulimia Jaw: Pain and Swelling.What is bulimia face? ›
When a person has been engaging in self-induced vomiting regularly and they suddenly stop engaging in the behaviour, their salivary glands in front of their ears (cheeks) may begin to swell. This makes their cheeks look swollen.Can bulimia cause sudden death? ›
In the case of bulimia nervosa, electrolyte disturbances are the main origin of sudden death by means of purging behaviors.Is there a mild form of anorexia? ›
Anorexia nervosa may be mild and transient or severe and persistent. The first indications that someone is developing anorexia nervosa may be a subtle increased concern with diet and body weight in a person who is not significantly overweight.What do doctors look for when diagnosing anorexia? ›
A doctor or mental health professional will likely ask about your thoughts, feelings and eating habits. You may also be asked to complete psychological self-assessment questionnaires. Other studies. Additional tests may be done to check for any complications related to your eating disorder.
Overview. Anorexia (an-o-REK-see-uh) nervosa — often simply called anorexia — is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.What are the different eating styles? ›
Based on this, there are several main types of eaters: omnivores, carnivores, pollotarians, pescetarians, vegetarians, and vegans. These recognizable groups can be mixed and matched as well as divided into lesser-known subgroups depending on certain dietary restrictions.What is fog eating? ›
Fog eating – consuming more food than you need, often without being genuinely hungry – can happen almost without you realising.Who was the first vegan ever? ›
One of the earliest followers of what we now consider a vegan diet was Arab philosopher and poet Al-Maʿarri who abstained from animal products for his health and beliefs on the transmigration of souls and animal welfare.What are rare eating disorders? ›
Orthorexia. Orthorexia is a form of eating disorder, still unrecognized in the DSM, wherein a person becomes obsessed with “healthy eating.” While many people make a point to be aware of the ingredients and sourcing of their food, orthorexia can become detrimental to the person's health.Are eggs vegetarian? ›
Are Eggs Considered Vegetarian? By definition, vegetarianism is classified as excluding any form of animal flesh (the tissue, muscles or meat of an animal). The humble egg doesn't fall into this category and is therefore included in a vegetarian eating pattern.