Facts to Know:
- Eating disorders are a group of conditions characterized by eating behaviors that result in medical, psychological, and social problems.
- Eating disorders can be difficult to treat, but research has demonstrated some treatments do work.
What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders is a broad category that includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), pica and rumination. Eating disorders are more common in women than in men. While the exact cause of eating and feeding disorders are not known, genetic and environmental components both play a role. Eating disorders appear to run in families, and they are more prevalent in certain cultures. Further, eating disorders are more common in individuals whose relatives have other psychiatric disorders. Dieting has been shown to be a risk factor for eating disorders, and feeding disorders are often associated with developmental delays.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by restrictive eating that leads to low body weight that is associated with the fear of becoming fat and preoccupation with body image. The starvation state of anorexia is associated with significant medical consequences such as low blood pressure, low heart rate, low body temperature and low bone density.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized a pattern of bingeing (eating objectively large amounts of food during which an individual experiences a loss of control) with compensatory behavior such purging. These individuals are normal to overweight.
Binge-eating is characterized by episodes of binge episodes with the absence of compensatory behaviors.
ARFID is characterized by food avoidance or restriction that fails to meet an individual’s nutritional or energy needs that may be related to sensory concerns or fear of unpleasant experiences such as choking or vomiting but not related to body image concerns.
Pica is characterized by persistent eating of substances that are not classified as food or nutrition such as chalk or cloth.
Rumination is the repeated regurgitation of food that may be that may be re-chewed, re-swallowed or spit out. Rumination symptoms may be present in the context of an eating disorder.
A diagnosis of feeding or eating disorder is best made by clinical assessment by a doctor or mental health professional and should include a diagnostic psychiatric interview as well as physical examination that includes evaluation of vital signs and laboratory assessment.
At ColumbiaDoctors, we provide individual and group treatments for eating disorders including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychopharmacology (medication management) where appropriate. Search our providers for a therapist or psychiatrist who might be a good fit. For patients who require treatment for an eating disorder and other co-occurring mental health challenges, the Columbia Day Program provides a structured, intensive treatment approach including meal support groups at lunchtime, eating disorder-focused group therapy, and other services tailored to individual needs.
Psychotherapy is an evidence-based treatment for bulimia and binge-eating disorders. Our therapists are trained in CBT and interpersonal therapy (IPT) that have been demonstrated to be effective treatments. Weight restoration is the cornerstone of anorexia treatment and is supported by behavioral interventions. CBT is indicated for relapse prevention. Evidence-based treatments are also available for the feeding disorders.
Medication has shown to be helpful for both bulimia and binge-eating disorder.
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