About 1.25 million Americans (two percent of the American population) will develop an eating disorder at some time in their life according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). This is the leading cause of mental illness-related deaths and it is estimated that up to 20 percent of sufferers will die prematurely, typically due to heart problems or suicide. If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, PATH Integrated Healthcare is here to help. Contact a PATH clinic to see how we can help you get back to a healthy life.

woman sitting on the floor upset in front of a weight scale

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are a group of conditions involving extreme concern about body weight or shape, poor self-perception, and low self-esteem. This concern causes serious mental and physical illnesses, as it negatively affects the eating habits of an individual.

There are multiple types of eating disorders, some of which are:

Anorexia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa

Binge Eating Disorder



Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Rumination Disorder

Laxative Abuse

Compulsive Exercise

Anorexia nervosa is a condition in which a person starves themselves intentionally, purges with laxatives, diuretics, vomiting, or excessive exercise; and they are abnormally obsessional about their weight. Bulimia nervosa is a condition in which a person feels out of control around food and then they feel the need to compensate for eating by purging (vomiting) or using laxatives. Some people with bulimia do not, however, have major weight problems.

People with a binge eating disorder will eat a larger amount of food than most people would in a similar time and situation (for some this might be up to several thousand calories) and they will also feel unable to control their eating. They often eat quickly and when they are alone because they are embarrassed by how much they eat or because they feel guilty about eating.

Who is At Risk for Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders can affect all types of people, no matter their age, race or wealth. However, there are some groups of people who have a greater risk of developing eating disorders, including:

  • Teenagers and young adults 
  • People with family history of eating disorders
  • Women in high-achieving roles that require low weight such as dancers, gymnasts, and other athletes

People may show signs of an eating disorder from the age of eight years old. However, it is usually not until their teenage or early adulthood years that they realize there is a problem and seek help. In some cases this can lead to severe problems as young people often struggle with family members who are opposed to them seeking treatment.

Women are more likely to develop an eating disorder than men (90 percent of sufferers are women) and it is estimated that between three percent and five percent of people who have eating disorders are men.

business woman sitting at her desk, holding her glasses and rubbing her temple/dealing with stress

What are the Symptoms of Eating Disorders?

It is important to note that symptoms of eating disorders can vary depending on the specific disorder and on the individual. Someone struggling with an eating disorder typically won’t have all of these symptoms at once, but this is a general overview of what signs may indicate a bigger issue.

Some symptoms of eating disorders can include:

Intense weight loss

Preoccupation with weight, calorie counting, and dieting

Refusing certain foods

Skipping meals

Withdrawing from friends and activities

Extreme mood swings

Irregular menstrual cycles

Feeling cold all the time

Difficulty concentrating

Muscle weakness

Eating disorders can have complex and devastating consequences on overall health, productivity, and relationships. These disorders can affect every organ system in the body, making them very serious illnesses that require treatment.

consultation between a patient and doctor

How are Eating Disorders Treated?

While these disorders are very serious mental and physical illnesses, they are treatable. Eating disorders can appear differently in everyone, so it is important to understand what symptoms are occurring to properly treat an individual. Successful treatment must address not only the symptoms and medical consequences, but also the psychological, biological, and interpersonal factors that can also be contributing to the eating disorder.

Treatment plans can utilize a combination of nutritional and psychological counseling, as well as medical and psychiatric monitoring. Nutritional counseling is necessary for educating patients about nutritional needs. Treatment will also be used for treating any physical complications that result from the disorder. If the health consequences of the disorder are severe, hospitalization may be required.

However, sufferers will often try to hide the fact that they have an eating disorder for fear of being judged. Statistics show that about one in five individuals get treatment for their eating disorder, even though many sufferers recover fully if treated effectively and promptly. Typically, approximately 50 percent will recover after three to five years if left untreated but up to 20 percent will relapse over longer periods of time. The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.

Contact a Clinic Today

Start your journey to recovery today with our team of medical professionals, who will support and encourage you every step of the way. Recovery isn’t always easy, but we are here to help you get there. Your well-being is our top priority. Contact a PATH Integrated Healthcare clinic to get started today.