Eating disorders

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is eating disorders?

Eating disorders describe illnesses that are characterized by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape. Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on your weight, body shape and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors. These can significantly impact your body’s ability to get adequate nutrition.

The most common forms of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Eating disorders cause a wide variety of complications, some of them are life-threatening. The more severe or long lasting the eating disorder, the more likely you are to experience serious complications, such as:

  • Significant medical problems;
  • Depression and anxiety;
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior;
  • Problems with growth and development;
  • Social and relationship problems;
  • Substance use disorders;
  • Work and school issues;
  • Death.

How common is eating disorders?

This health condition is extremely common. It commonly affects more teenager and young females than males. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of eating disorders?

The common symptoms of eating disorders are:

  • Chronic dieting despite being hazardously underweight.
  • Constant weight fluctuations.
  • Obsession with calories and fat contents of food.
  • Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, or hiding food.
  • Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking.
  • The individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from partaking.
  • Depression or lethargic stage.
  • Avoidance of social functions, family, and friends may become isolated and withdrawn.
  • Switching between periods of overeating and fasting.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders may not think they need treatment. If you’re worried about a loved one, urge him or her to talk to a doctor. Be alert for eating patterns and beliefs that may signal unhealthy behavior, as well as peer pressure that may trigger eating disorders. Red flags that may indicate an eating disorder include:

  • Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating.
  • Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet.
  • Excessive focus on healthy eating.
  • Making own meals rather than eating what the family eats.
  • 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.
  • Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting.
  • Problems with loss of tooth enamel that may be a sign of repeated vomiting.
  • Leaving during meals to use the toilet.
  • Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal.
  • Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes eating disorders?

The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. As with other mental illnesses, there may be many causes, such as:

  • Certain people may have genes that increase their risk of developing eating disorders. People with first-degree relatives — siblings or parents — with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder.
  • Psychological and emotional health.People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, and troubled relationships.
  • Success and worth are often equated with being thin in popular culture. Peer pressure and what people see in the media may fuel this desire to be thin.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for eating disorders?

There are many risk factors for eating disorders, such as:

  • Being female. Teenage girls and young women are more likely to have anorexia or bulimia, but males can have eating disorders, too.
  • Although eating disorders can occur across a broad age range — including childhood, the teenage years and older adulthood — they are much more common during the teens and early 20s.
  • Family history. Eating disorders are significant to occur in people who have parents or siblings who’ve had an eating disorder.
  • Mental health disorders. People with depression, anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have an eating disorder.
  • People who lose weight are often reinforced by positive comments from others and by their changing appearance. This may cause some people to take dieting too far, leading to an eating disorder.
  • Stress may increase your risk of an eating disorder.
  • Sports, work and artistic activities.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is eating disorders diagnosed?

Exams and tests generally include:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will likely examine you to rule out other medical causes for your eating issues. He or she may also order lab tests.
  • Psychological evaluation. A doctor or mental health provider 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. Evaluation and testing may also be done to determine your nutritional requirements.

How is eating disorders treated?

Treatment of an eating disorder generally includes:

  • It can help you learn how to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones. This may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family-based therapy (FBT).
  • Hospitalization. If you have serious health problems, such as anorexia that have resulted in severe malnutrition, your doctor may recommend hospitalization.
  • Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help with symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are frequently associated with eating disorders.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage eating disorders?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with eating disorders:

  • Stick to your treatment plan. Don’t skip therapy sessions and try not to stray from meal plans.
  • Talk to your doctor about appropriate vitamin and mineral supplements to make sure you’re getting all the essential nutrients.
  • Don’t isolate yourself from caring family members and friends who want to see you get healthy and have your best interests at heart.
  • Talk to your health care providers about what kind of exercise, if any, is appropriate for you.
  • Read self-help books that offer sound, practical advice. Your doctor may recommend some helpful resources.
  • Resist urges to weigh yourself or check yourself in the mirror frequently. This may simply fuel your drive to maintain unhealthy habits.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 4, 2016 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019