JHAH Well-being

Eating disorders: What are they, and how are they treated?

Disorders, which usually being in your teens, can lead to heart and kidney problems, and even death.

Eating disorders: What are they, and how are they treated?

Eating disorders are serious behavioral problems that may include extreme concern about body shape or weight, overeating, or not consuming enough. Types of eating disorders include: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating. Women are more likely than men to have eating disorders. 


The disorders usually start in the teenage years and often involve depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Eating disorders can lead to heart and kidney problems, and even death.


Getting help early is essential. Treatment involves monitoring, talking therapy, nutritional counseling, and sometimes medication.


Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is often known simply as anorexia. People with anorexia see themselves as overweight, even when they are clearly underweight. 


Eating, food, and weight control become obsessions, and people typically weigh themselves repeatedly, portion food carefully, and eat minimal quantities of only certain foods. 


Some people with anorexia may also binge-eat, followed by extreme dieting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, or misuse of drugs that aid in weight loss.


Bulimia nervosa

People with bulimia nervosa experience frequent and repeated episodes of eating large amounts of food, and feel a lack of control over these episodes. This binge eating is often followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. 


Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia nervosa usually keep a healthy or normal weight, while some are slightly overweight. But like people with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape.


Binge-eating disorder

People with a binge-eating disorder often eat a substantial amount of food. They commonly feel out of control during these binges. 


Binge-eaters are often overweight or obese. Unlike those with bulimia or anorexia, binge-eaters don’t force themselves to vomit and do not exercise a lot.



Treatment for eating disorders usually involves a team of nutritionists, therapists, and other health care providers. They will help the person to cope with stress and to learn healthy eating patterns. 


Treatment can also involve medication and various types of therapy. Treatment goals include helping a person to maintain a normal weight and treating any psychological issues related to, or causing, the eating disorder to prevent relapse. 


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