About Eating Disorders

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge-eating disorder (BED) are characterized by serious disturbances in eating behaviors as well as intense preoccupation with issues regarding eating, weight, body size and shape. Eating concerns and disordered eating behavior fall on a spectrum. While some may not meet the very specific criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder, these individuals may fit into another category called Otherwise Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder or have an Unspecified Feeding and Eating Disorder.

Who is Affected?

In the United States, there are 20 million women and ten million men suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and associated conditions (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011). Eating disorders occur throughout the lifespan in people of diverse ethnicities.

Complications of eating disorders are serious, and can include malnutrition, organ damage, emotional distress and death. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

A large percentage of people with eating disorders fail to seek any help; for others, adequate treatment remains elusive. Many programs fail to recognize and treat co-existing disorders such as depression and anxiety. Columbia University Medical Center has dedicated 30 years of research to actively developing evidence-based therapies for these disorders.

What are Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder?

People who answer yes to a significant number of these questions may have an eating problem. If you are concerned that you may have a problem please contact your doctor, a mental health professional or call our clinic at 646-774-8066.

  • I worry about gaining weight.
  • I am preoccupied with losing weight.
  • I frequently diet or feel the need to be on a diet.
  • My mood depends on my weight, and if I gain a pound I can be depressed or irritable.
  • I feel bad about myself if I gain weight.
  • If I gain one pound, I worry that I will continue to gain weight.
  • I think of certain foods as being either "good" or "bad" and feel guilty about eating bad foods.
  • I use food to comfort myself.
  • At times when I am eating I feel I have lost control.
  • I spend a significant amount of time thinking about food and when I will eat.
  • I try to hide how much I eat.
  • I have thought about or have self-induced vomiting as a way to control my weight.
  • After eating, I may use laxatives, diuretics or exercise to prevent weight gain.
  • I am dissatisfied with my body size and shape.
  • I eat until I am stuffed.

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