Eating Disorders

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are characterized by dangerous eating behaviors that harm your health, emotions and ability to function. These disorders cause an obsession with food, weight and body shape. Eating disorders can be difficult to face due to cultural pressures to look a certain way.


There are three main types of eating disorders and symptoms vary among them. Some of the most common symptoms follow.

Anorexia Nervosa:
  • Frequently skipping meals
  • Obsession with calories
  • Frequent exercising
  • Unrealistic sense of personal appearance
  • Sudden or extreme weight loss
Bulimia Nervosa:
  • Forced vomiting after eating, sometimes after binge eating
  • Purging through fasting, excessive exercise and crash diets
  • Unrealistic sense of personal appearance
Binge Eating Disorder:
  • Eating very large quantities
  • Feeling unable to stop eating
  • Not purging after large binges


There are many ways to treat eating disorders. Use the information below as a guide to help you understand your treatment options. Always speak with your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.

Psychological Counseling
Counseling or talk therapy can be an effective way to treat eating disorders. It involves regular visits with a behavioral health professional who will help you learn ways to cope with stress, manage your symptoms and improve your self-image and relationship with food. It is important to feel comfortable and safe with your behavioral health professional, and you may need to talk with a few to find one who feels right.

Medication can be an effective tool in helping to treat eating disorders. It works by helping to balance chemicals in the brain, which can help you feel more comfortable your self-image and eating habits.

Tips about medication
  • Keep taking your medication as prescribed. Most side effects are minor and temporary. Discuss any side effects with your doctor so you can decide together if the treatment is right for you. Follow up regularly with your doctor to make sure the medication is working correctly for you.
  • Medication can take some time to work. You may not feel better for a few weeks, and it is important to give them time. 1
  • Medications are most effective when taken at the same time each day.2 Try setting an alarm, using a pill box or taking your medication with regular activities to help make it a part of your daily routine.

Ready for help?

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 9 pm and Friday from 9 am to 5 pm for support and guidance. This toll-free line is confidential.

You can also text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line or visit NEDA online and chat with a trained volunteer, take a free eating disorders screening or find more information on handling eating disorders.

1 Mental Health Medications. National Alliance on Mental Illness.
2 General Medication Guidelines. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. (2014)

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