Eating Disorders Articles
A reported 9% of people worldwide have an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorder Foundation. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that can have serious effects on physical health as well. See below to explore a few of the most common types of eating disorders and find out how therapy may help in addressing symptoms.
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Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Eating disorders are a type of mental health condition. They can have serious symptoms and physical and mental health consequences, and they may affect people of any age, size, sex, gender, sexuality, religion, class, or ethnicity. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), it’s estimated that over 28 million people in the United States alone will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
Eating disorders can become life-threatening if left unaddressed, which is why it can be vital to be able to recognize their signs and symptoms. If you are living with, at risk of, or know someone with an eating disorder, becoming educated about them can help you know when to seek the support you or a loved one may need. Continue reading to learn more about eating disorders and how online therapy may help those experiencing them.
If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline for support and resources at 1-800-931-2237 (M–Th from 9AM–9PM EST and Fri 9AM–5PM EST).
Types Of Eating Disorders
There are several different types of eating disorders. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most common ones and their key symptoms.
Anorexia nervosa: Anorexia nervosa is one of the deadliest psychiatric illnesses. Onset can occur at any time of life but is most common between 12 and 25 years of age. Key symptoms of anorexia nervosa include extreme food restriction through dieting or fasting, an intense fear of gaining weight, and excessive or compulsive exercise. Note that a person does not need to be thin to develop or have anorexia nervosa.
Bulimia nervosa: Bulimia nervosa is characterized by cycles of binging food and then engaging in purging or other compensatory behaviors. A person living with bulimia will typically compulsively eat—often without enjoying or even tasting the food—and then purge through vomiting, exercise, laxative misuse, etc.
ARFID: ARFID, which stands for avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, is characterized by inadequate nutritional intake due to highly selective and restrictive food choices. This disorder can develop due to a lack of interest in eating, sensory issues with some foods, or the fear of eating certain foods. The condition is most often seen in children, but it can persist into adult years and present itself at any age. Failure to meet one’s energy or nutritional needs due to ARFID can result in severe medical consequences.
Binge eating disorder: Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating that happen at least once a week and last for three months or more. When an episode occurs, individuals often feel unable to stop or control their behavior. Warning signs of BED can include frequent dieting, secretive behavior, cutting out food groups, depression, feelings of being out of control, and social isolation.
Eating disorders can take other forms as well, and all of them have the potential to be serious—but it is possible to recover from an eating disorder with a stable support system and a personalized, professional treatment plan. Common treatments include talk therapy, nutrition education, medical monitoring, and/or medication. Note that eating disorders are often comorbid with other mental health conditions that may also need to be addressed and treated.
If you’re experiencing an eating disorder, it can be essential to seek help by talking to a doctor, participating in therapy, and/or enrolling in inpatient or outpatient treatment. Consulting with a healthcare professional can help you decide on your next steps.
Online Therapy For Eating Disorders
Regardless of the type of eating disorder you may be diagnosed with, some type of talk therapy is almost always a part of the treatment plan. A trained therapist can help you learn to become aware of distorted thoughts and feelings so you can eventually learn to shift them in a more positive direction. They can also equip you with healthy coping mechanisms that can help you manage difficult emotions without turning to dangerous habits.
Some people find in-person therapy to be intimidating or inconvenient, in which case virtual therapy can present a viable alternative. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of home via phone call, video call, and/or in-app messaging.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy For Eating Disorders
Researchers have studied the effectiveness of online therapy as a part of the treatment of various eating disorders. Recent studies suggest that virtual therapy can help improve symptoms of eating disorders like anorexia in individuals who are experiencing them. If you’re experiencing symptoms and would prefer online therapy to in-person sessions, you may consider exploring this format to see if it might be right for you.
Eating disorders can affect virtually anyone, and they can have very serious health effects if left untreated. The information in this section can help you learn more about recognizing the signs of an eating disorder in yourself or a loved one. Next, contacting a therapist or other healthcare professional can help you get the resources, guidance, and support you may need to address your symptoms.