Eating disorders are life-threatening mental illnesses characterized by an obsession with food and weight. Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and related eating disorders are more common in women than men and typically start in adolescence, though their effects can be seen across all ages, races and genders.
Genetics and emotional and psychological issues are at the root of many eating disorders. In addition, our society’s thirst for thinness and unrealistic ideals of beauty, which are communicated in various forms of media, lead many to develop low self-esteem and a negative body image.
Eating disorders can affect functioning in every system of the body, especially the heart and kidneys, and may cause lasting damage and even death. Because of the urgency of the risks associated with eating disorders, getting high-quality eating disorder treatment early on is the best way to combat the mental and physical consequences of these devastating mental illnesses.
Because eating disorders impact the whole person – mind, body and spirit – treatment must be comprehensive and individualized. The best eating disorder treatment programs combine medical care, individual, group and family therapy, nutrition education, and other interventions tailored to the specific needs of each individual.