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Eating Disorders: An Overview

Silver Hill Hospital

In the United States 20 million women and 10 million men struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders often begin during the teen years, but can also occur later in life. They typically co-occur with other disorders such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse.

Quick Facts:

  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression
  • 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases”
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives


The three most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – People with anorexia view themselves as overweight, even when they are visibly underweight. Often, the person becomes obsessed with food and weight. They may eat very small portions of select foods, restrict food and weigh themselves repeatedly. Some will binge-eat and then use extreme dieting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and/or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Learn the warning signs.
  • Bulimia Nervosa – Characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia usually maintain a healthy or normal weight, while some are slightly overweight, but often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Learn the warning signs.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder – a person loses control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are over-weight or obese. Learn the warning signs

Take a free confidential screening if you think you may have an eating disorder.


Although eating disorders are serious conditions, they are treatable. The most effective treatment is psychotherapy along with nutritional counseling and close monitoring by a medical doctor. Psychotherapy addresses the symptoms of the eating disorder directly as well as the underlying factors that contribute to causing and maintaining the disorder. Treatment is delivered in a variety of settings including outpatient, residential facilities and hospitals and is based on the unique needs of the individual.

Friends & Family – What Should You Do?
The National Eating Disorders Association provides information for friends and family who have a loved one dealing with an eating disorder.