Health Information For Parents

A to Z: Eating Disorder


Eating disorders involve self-critical, negative thoughts and feelings about body weight and food, and eating habits that disrupt normal body function and daily activities.

More to Know

People with eating disorders may have a fear of gaining weight or be overly concerned about their body shape and weight. They may eat very little all the time, or at times may binge (eat a lot in a short amount of time). They may exercise more than they should, make themselves throw up, or use pills to lose weight.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa cause dramatic weight fluctuation, interfere with normal daily life, and can permanently affect health. The cause of eating disorders isn’t clear, but doctors believe it involves psychological, genetic, and social factors.

While more common in girls, eating disorders can affect boys, too. Kids and teens with eating disorders may feel cold or tired. Some have dizziness or fainting, hair loss, dry skin, and difficulty concentrating. Girls may stop having periods.

Early identification and treatment of an eating disorder is important. Without treatment, eating disorders may lead to life-threatening heart problems as well as problems with other organs in the body.


Keep in Mind

Treatment for eating disorders should involve a team of experts, including a doctor, therapist, and dietitian. The goals of treatment are to help someone:

  • stop the unhealthy behaviors
  • achieve and maintain a healthy weight and healthy eating patterns
  • learn ways to change thoughts about his or her body and approach to food

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.



  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.

  • Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS)

    CMHS is a federal agency that provides information about mental health to users of mental health services, their families, the general public, policy makers, providers, and the media.

  • Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia

    This nonprofit organization is concerned with effective treatment, specialized training, significant research, and increased community understanding. Contact the group at:

    Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia
    1841 Broadway, 4th Floor
    New York, NY 10023
    (212) 333-3444

  • National Mental Health Association (NMHA)

    NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research, and service.

  • National Eating Disorders Association

    The NEDA is a nonprofit association dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Contact them at:

    National Eating Disorders Association
    603 Stewart St.
    Suite 803
    Seattle, WA 98101
    (206) 382-3587

  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)

    ANAD is a national nonprofit organization for people with eating disorders and their families. In addition to its hotline counseling, ANAD operates an international network of support groups and offers referrals to health care professionals who treat eating disorders. Contact them at:

    Box 7
    Highland Park, IL 60035
    (847) 831-3438

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