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About Eating Disorder

Eating disorders  involve extreme behaviors, attitudes, and feelings regarding food, weight, and body-related issues. They are serious illnesses that can be deadly. Besides the danger to physical health, eating disorders destroy the quality of life and relationships of those who suffer.  If you are struggling with food, weight, or body image issues, or if you have a friend or family member who you suspect may have an Eating disorder, please seek professional help now.  Early diagnosis and intervention can make a big difference in recovery.

Types of Eating Disorders

The spectrum of disordered eating ranges from extreme starvation to extreme overeating.  What separates a disorder from disordered is the frequency/intensity of behaviors and the sometimes paradoxical loss of control.  A diagnosis could be one of the following:

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is characterized by excessive food restriction and weight loss, intense fear of weight gain, and distorted body image.  

Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is characterized by a chaotic cycle of binge eating followed by purging, either through self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, exercise, or the use of a substance to rid the body of the ingested food.  

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is characterized by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness.  

Avoidant and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional or energy needs associated with apparent lack of interest in eating food, food avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food, or concern about aversive consequences of eating

Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (USFED) is a diagnosis given when symptoms cause significant distress but full criteria for AN, BN, or BED are not met.  Orthorexia, or the obsession with healthy or clean eating could fall into this category.  

The Nourishment Center is able to treat these Eating Disorders in both males and females.

Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

These are some behaviors that can be warning signs of an eating disorder.  Eating disorders thrive in secrecy, so many of these behaviors may be difficult to detect.    

  • Makes excuses to avoid family meals or stays away from social situations involving food.
  • Goes through rituals to make eating small amounts of food less obvious. 
  • Fluctuates between excessive eating and restricting food. 
  • Obsessively exercises without enjoyment regardless of bad weather, illness, or injury. 
  • Often disappears to the bathroom after eating. 
  • Preoccupation and dissatisfaction with body shape. 
  • Wears layers of baggy clothing to hide body, even in warm weather. 
  • Is always cold. 
  • Develops dental problems or callouses on knuckles. 
  • Disgusted with former favorite foods, only eats certain foods (“safe foods”). 
  • Has frantic fear of weight gain and repeatedly diets. 
  • Simplistic, black and white, all or nothing thinking. 
  • Has trouble talking about feelings. 
  • Seems moody, irritable, and withdrawn more than normal. 
  • Engages in self-harm behaviors (cutting, burning, risk-taking) 
  • Secretive eating, hiding food wrappers, food disappears without explanation. 
  • Preoccupation with food and eating – increased interest in food channels, recipes, and cooking

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

There is no cause of an eating disorder. Some patients can point back to an age or time in their life when their eating disorder developed, but there is rarely one simple cause to point to.  This can be frustrating for families wanting something to blame. Parents often blame themselves.  It is important to remember that guilt can be paralyzing and hold families back from fully engaging in support and recovery. Following are risk factors that can lead to the development of an eating disorder. Understanding the risks can give guidance toward adequate support.


  • High achiever
  • Perfectionist
  • Obedient “rule follower”
  • Tend to repress emotions
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative, pessimistic
  • Sensitive
  • Impulsive/volatile



  • Genetics
  • Body type
  • Co-morbid disorders
  • Developmental history



  • Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life
  • Lack of a sense of self/identity
  • Depression, anxiety, anger, loneliness



  • Troubled family and personal relationships
  • Difficulty expressing feelings and emotion
  • History of teasing or ridicule about appearance
  • History of physical or sexual abuse



  • Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”
  • Narrow definitions of beauty that include only specific body weight and shapes
  • Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities


Other Factors 

  • Competitive Sports
  • Diets

Treatment of Eating Disorders 

Treatment of eating disorders follows a level of care system based on the severity of the illness and resources patient has to work with in his or her own life.  Symptoms, support, motivation, and chronicity are all factored in when a level of care is recommended. to a patient.  The levels are: 

  • Inpatient (IP)
  • Residential (RES or RTC) 
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (PHP)
  • Outpatient (OP)

Outpatient is the lowest level of care, offering the least intensity of treatment.  This level is appropriate for patients who can complete meals independently, who are highly motivated to recover, who have support and whose eating disorder is less severe or very newly established.  The outpatient level is also designed for patients who have gone through intense treatment in a hospital or center and are stepping down from those levels (IP, RES, PHP,) and back into their lives.  

Outpatient treatment is where patients  stay in treatment for the most amount of time, estimated 18-24 months minimum following intense treatment and longer if the entire eating disorder is treated on the outpatient level.