What is an Eating Disorder?

According to the CDC, eating disorder related hospitalizations sky-rocketed during the pandemic. While many facets of life have seemingly returned to normal, eating disorders continue to remain at unprecedented levels regardless of age, race, body size, gender identity and sexual orientation. 

It is estimated that 1 in 7 men and 1 in 5 women will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. For 95% of those people, the disorder begins by age 25. For patients with anorexia, 1 in 10 will die from the disease. As we garner a better understanding of what comprises an eating disorder and expand diagnostic criteria, the gap in treatment resources for eating disorders has widened to unprecedented distances. From waitlists to a lack of providers to cost, individuals seeking treatment face numerous barriers that can result in the worsening of their disorder and increase the likelihood of the need for hospitalization.

Anorexia Nervosa: 

  • Restriction of energy intake leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health
  • Intense fear of gaining weight, even though underweight
  • Body image disturbance, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight

Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Recurring binge eating episodes characterized by the following:
  • Eating large amounts of food within a 2-hour period and sense of lack of control
  • Recurring inappropriate compensatory behavior (vomiting, laxatives, exercise, diet pills)
  • Binge eating and compensatory behaviors occur, on average, at least once a week for three months
  • Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight

Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Recurring episodes of eating large amounts of food, more than most people would eat in similar circumstances in a short period of time
  • Eating rapidly, eating beyond fullness and secret eating marked with distress around binges
  • Sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
  • Binge episodes average at least once a week for three months

AFRID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)

  • An eating or feeding disturbance so pervasive that the person is unable to meet appropriate nutritional needs, resulting in one (or more) of the following: significant weight loss, nutritional deficiency, dependency on nutritional supplements, or interference in social functioning
  • This problem with eating is not explained by a lack of food being available
  • This is different from both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa in that the problems with eating are in no way related to what the person believes about his/her size, weight, and/or shape
  • This disturbance is not caused by a medical condition or another mental disorder

OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder)

Individuals who are experiencing significant distress due to symptoms that are similar to disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder, but who do not meet the full criteria for a diagnosis of one of the above disorders. Prior to 2013, this was often referred to as “EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).