An eating disorder is present when a person experiences severe disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape. Usually a person with an eating disorder starts out by just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, however, after a while, the urge to eat less or more spirals out of control.
The two main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. A third category is “eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS),” which includes several variations of eating disorders. Binge-eating disorder, which has received increasing research and media attention in recent years, is one type of EDNOS.
Research has shown that eating disorders frequently appear during adolescence or young adulthood, but some reports indicate that they can develop during childhood or later in adulthood. Women and girls are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder. Men and boys account for an estimated 5 to 15 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder.
Eating disorders usually have an underlying psychological cause. They frequently co-exist with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders.
Counseling provides short-term individual and long-term group therapy focused at symptom reduction, increasing understanding of the communicative and psychological functions of the eating disorder, increasing the ability to express emotions and learning to define oneself in other ways than body size and food.