Woman thinking about food

Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a mental health condition in which the person affected experiences significant disruptions in their eating behaviors as well as in their related thoughts and emotions. People who struggle with eating disorders often become preoccupied with food and their body weight. 

Additionally, eating disorders often occur together with other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorders. Without treatment, eating disorders can cause a number of health-related problems including cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal issues, and malnutrition. But with proper treatment, people affected by eating disorders can resume suitable eating habits and can improve their mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Could you have an eating disorder?

    Determining if you have an eating disorder begins with examining your thoughts and behaviors surrounding food, body image and body weight. Although there is an extensive list of warning signs, not everyone will display every symptom. If you suspect you have an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. The chance for recovery increases the sooner an eating disorder is addressed.

  • What causes eating disorders?

    Eating disorders are complex disorders that stem from a variety of factors including genetics, cultural ideals, environmental, psychological, and biological influences. These risk factors may also include mental health conditions like anxiety and depression along with body image issues.

  • How can you help someone with an eating disorder?

    To help a loved one with an eating disorder, be supportive of their recovery efforts without trying to fix, control, or counsel them. Instead, be patient and encouraging. Empower them to tackle their disordered eating and talk to a counselor or therapist.

  • Are eating disorders genetic?

    There is some evidence that eating disorders are heritable. In fact, in one study of twins, researchers discovered that 40% to 60% of the risk for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder arises from genetic influences. However, the development of an eating disorder is a complex process impacted by a variety of factors and not just about genetic influences.

Key Terms

woman thinking on couch holding her phone
Why Do Some People Get Eating Disorders?
USA, New Jersey, Teenage girl (14-15) sitting on bed, embracing pillow
What Would It Be Like to Live for a Day With Anorexia?
Comfort Food
Understanding the Binge-Purge Cycle in Bulimia
Suicide and Eating Disorders
How to Get Help When You Have an Eating Disorder and Are Suicidal
Anosognosia and Anorexia
When a Loved One With Anorexia Does Not Believe They Are Ill
Cropped closeup image female touching stomach suffering from severe ache
Acute Massive Gastric Dilatation Is a Rare Consequence of Binge Eating
Empty plate
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Eating Disorders
Man talking with therapist specializing in eating disorder
It's Now Easier to Be Diagnosed With an Eating Disorder
Bulimia and Your Teeth
sad girl sitting in armchair
Eating Disorders and Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Abuse
Twin girls looking uncomfortable
Eating Disorders in Twins and Multiples
woman looking into distorted mirror
How Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Eating Disorders Are Connected
back of young woman's head using a smartphone while watching TV.
Is the Media to Blame for Causing Eating Disorders?
PTSD and Eating Disorders
PTSD and Eating Disorders
loving someone with eating disorder
9 Essential Facts About Eating Disorders
Anxious woman sitting in sofa daydreaming
A Fictional Day in the Life of a Person With Bulimia
Disappointed Girl on Scale
Eating Disorders Every Parent Should Know About
woman eating donut
How Overeating Can Become Problematic
Teenage girl in despair over empty plate
What Factors Influence Whether You'll Fully Recover from Anorexia?
Women stretching on beach
Body Image and Eating Disorders
Hand carving turkey
Managing Holiday Meals When You Have an Eating Disorder
Woman in front of empty plate bound with tape measure
You Can Hurt Someone With an Eating Disorder by Saying the Wrong Thing
Bowls of popcorn
How to Curb Emotional Eating
Sad woman sharing with friends and instructor
Best Eating Disorder Support Groups of 2021
Anonymous photo of two women during group psychotherapy for people with eating disorders
What Are Eating Disorders?
Teens running track at school.
Could Your Son Have an Eating Disorder?
Drunkorexia: Where Binge Drinking and Disordered Eating Collide
When College Drinking and Disordered Eating Collide: Drunkorexia
Person weighing themself on scale.
Worried About Pandemic Weight Gain? Here are Strategies for Coping
Stack of cotton balls
What Is the Cotton Ball Diet?
BIPOC person weighing on scale
Is My Loss of Appetite an Eating Disorder?
Ice in a glass
Everything You Should Know About Pagophagia
Woman looking at small portion of food on her plate.
I Want to Stop Eating: Do I Have an Eating Disorder?
Strange Food Combinations and Eating Disorders
Strange Food Combinations and Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
So You’ve Lost Your Period—How Can You Get it Back?
Mixed race woman peering into refrigerator at night
What Is Night Eating Syndrome?
teen girl checking her stomach
Watch for These Signs If You Think Your Teen Has an Eating Disorder
Girl Running at Night
Excessive Exercise: Could It Be a Symptom of an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders in children
4 Signs of Eating Disorders in Children You Might Not Recognize
Compensatory Behaviors
What Are Compensatory Behaviors in People with Eating Disorders?
Woman on the floor sits by toilet
How to Identify Purging Disorder?
Woman organizing pencils that are all exactly the same
Perfectionism in Eating Disorders
Broken scale
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Bulimia
Young Woman pinching her waist
Do You Know the Warning Signs of Anorexia in Teens?
Woman looking in the mirror
Catch Your Cognitive Distortions to Help Recovery
40 Potential Warning Signs of Anorexia
Young woman eat a toast at italian café
Rapid Overeating and Compensatory Behaviors in Eating Disorders
Woman weighing herself at home
Watch Out for These Signs If You Have an Eating Disorder
How to Challenge All-or-Nothing Thinking
doctor showing teen and mother x-rays
Eating Disorders Can Prevent You From Getting Your Period
woman getting weighed on scale by doctor
Could Your Current Weight Be Maintaining Your Eating Disorder?
Eating Disorders in Children and Tweens
How Would I Know If My Tween Has an Eating Disorder?
Mother talking to daughter
When to Seek Help for Your Purging Eating Disorder
Dancing
Dance Therapy As Treatment For Eating Disorders
Psychedelic Treatment for Eating Disorders
Could Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy Help Your Eating Disorder?
Adult education female teacher in front of class.
The Nuts and Bolts of Food Addicts Anonymous
Encouraging therapists talks with young woman
What Is Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists (EDRS)?
When mature adult woman speaks, the group looks and listens.
What Is Overeaters Anonymous?
Caring for a Loved One With an Eating Disorder
How to Support a Friend or Loved One With an Eating Disorder
Grocery Shopping
How Can Intuitive Eating Help My Eating Disorder?
Recovering from an Eating Disorder When You Live in a Larger Body
Recovering from an Eating Disorder When You Live in a Larger Body
Page Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. How to help a loved one.