Frequently Asked Questions

What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are disorders that involve the obsessions with food and body weight and can impair your quality of life by causing emotional and physical problems. Emotionally, people with eating disorders may feel overwhelmed, ashamed, out of control, depressed and anxious. Physically eating disorders can cause harm to the body, malnutrition, organ damage, health problems and even death.

Can eating disorders be treated?
Yes, eating disorders can be successfully treated. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances for recovery.

Who gets eating disorders?
Young women and teens are more likely to develop eating disorders, but more and more men and older women also have eating disorders.

Do eating disorders affect families and friends of people with eating disorders?
Families and friends of people with eating disorders suffer too and can be affected. But they can also be the reason why people with eating disorders decide to obtain treatment. They can help notice the signs of the eating disorder and encourage and support their loved one. Sometimes family members need their own treatment and support so that they can learn ways to help their loved one.

What types of eating disorders are there?
Anorexia Nervosa - An intense preoccupation with weight and wanting to lose weight coupled with restrictive behavior, being underweight, and a belief that she/he is fat even though she/he is very thin. Sometimes there may purging behaviors including over excercising. People with anorexia experience signs of malnutrition including a loss of their menstrual cycle and osteopenia or osteoporosis. Anorexia can be life threatening.

Bulimia Nervosa - Characterized by repeated cycles of binge eating and purging. People with bulimia often have periods of dieting or fasting, followed by overeating and binging, and then guilt and purging such as by vomiting, abusing laxatives, or over excercising. Most people with bulimia are at or near a normal weight, but many are also concerned about weight and dieting and some may have a distorted body image. People with Bulimia may experience a disrtuption of electrolytes which can cause irregular heartbeat. Some also have digestive and intestinal distress.

Binge Eating Disorder - Periods of binge eating characterized by eating a lot of food, feeling out of control and feeling unable to stop. People with binge eating disorder tend to experience this as a food addiction and as a way of trying to cope with their emotions. People with binge eating disorder do not purge. Some are overweight or obese.

Eating Disorder NOS - Any of the above cluster of symptoms but not enough to qualify for the full diagnosis. Or chronic dieting and restricting, chronic food and weight preoccupation.

Are eating disorders food addictions?
Some people with eating disorders experience them like an addiction. They feel preoccupied with it, often planning when and what they will eat next. They avoid social situations and isolate themselves so they can "use" food. Some people describe feeling a chemical release after purging and feel addicted to it. Often these people are "using" food to avoid emotions and conflicts within themselves. Some times the dieting part of the cycle creates a false sense of control. In addition, some people abuse alcohol or drugs as part of their eating disorder. Therapy can help the person address those underlying emotions and conflicts and can teach healthier coping skills. Some people who experience this addictive quality of an eating disorder benefit from therapy and 12 step OA meetings.

Why do people develop eating disorders?
Personal - Many people develop eating disorders because of low self esteem, perfectionistic personality types, or difficulty tolerating emotions

Families - Most people with eating disorders experienced some type of chaos as a child. This could include a history of trauma in childhood, death, sickness, divorce, physical or sexual abuse, or family history of substance abuse. Many people with eating disorders had an overly critical parent, or had a parent who was preoccupied with food and dieting or appearance, or encouraged the child to diet. There is research that is proving that eating disorders run in families and that there may even be genetic links in families.

Social and Cultural - The pressures in our culture to be thin, and to diet and change our natural bodies contributes to the development of eating disorders. Dieting can cause disordered eating and disordered eating can lead to eating disorders.

Do people with eating disorders have other problems?
Many people with eating disorders have also suffer from another disorder such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or PTSD. Sometimes symptoms of depression can be caused by the eating disorder.

How are eating disorders treated?
Eating disorders are generally treated with a combination therapy approach that is tailored to fit the individual needs of the client. Typically this includes one or more of the following: cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, group support, nutritional counseling, medication, physical health assessments, intensive therapy, and residential or hospital treatment. It is important to get an accurate dianosis, see your providers regularly and work on it daily in order to obtain the best results.