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Health Information For Teens
Eating disorders are problems with the way people eat. They can harm a person’s health, emotions, and relationships. There are several types of eating disorders.
Common types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).
Anorexia. People with anorexia:
People with anorexia are very strict about what and how much they will eat. They may think about food or calories almost all the time.
To lose weight, some people with anorexia fast or exercise too much. Others may use laxatives, diuretics (water pills), or enemas.
Bulimia. People with bulimia:
People with bulimia eat much more (during a set period of time) than most people would. If a person regularly binges and purges, it may be a sign of bulimia. Unlike people with anorexia who are very low weight, people with bulimia may be thin, average weight, or overweight. People with bulimia often hide their eating and purging from others.
Binge eating. People with binge eating disorder:
Many people with binge eating disorder eat faster than normal. They may eat alone so others don’t see how much they are eating. Unlike people with bulimia, those with binge eating disorder do not make themselves throw up, use laxatives, or exercise a lot to make up for binge eating. If a person binge eats at least once a week for 3 months, it may be a sign of binge eating disorder.
ARFID. People with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID):
People with ARFID don’t eat because they are turned off by the smell, taste, texture, or color of food. They may be afraid that they will choke or vomit. They don’t have anorexia, bulimia, or another medical problem that would explain their eating behaviors.
Eating disorders can cause serious problems throughout the body.
Anorexia can lead to health problems caused by undernutrition and low body weight, such as:
People with anorexia may find it hard to focus and have trouble remembering things. Mood changes and emotional problems include:
Bulimia can lead to health problems caused by vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics, such as:
People with bulimia may have these emotional problems:
Binge eating can lead to weight-related health problems, such as:
People with binge eating disorder may:
ARFID may lead to health problems that stem from poor nutrition, similar to anorexia. People with ARFID may:
People with ARFID are more likely to have:
There’s no single cause for eating disorders. Genes, environment, and stressful events all play a role. Some things can increase a person’s chance of having an eating disorder, such as:
Health care providers and mental health professionals diagnose eating disorders based on history, symptoms, thought patterns, eating behaviors, and an exam.
The doctor will check weight and height and compare these to previous measurements on growth charts. The doctor may order tests to see if there is another reason for the eating problems and to check for problems caused by the eating disorder.
Eating disorders are best treated by a team that includes a doctor, dietitian, and therapist. Treatment includes nutrition counseling, medical care, and talk therapy (individual, group, and family therapy). The doctor might prescribe medicine to treat binge eating, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns.
The details of the treatment depend on the type of eating disorder and how severe it is. Some people are hospitalized because of extreme weight loss and medical complications.
If you think you may have an eating disorder:
Tell someone. Tell a parent, teacher, counselor, or an adult you trust. Let them know what you’re going through. Ask them to help.
Get help early. When an eating disorder is caught early, a person has a better chance of recovery. Make an appointment with your doctor or an eating disorders specialist.
Go to all appointments. Treatment takes time and effort. Work hard to learn about yourself and your emotions. Ask questions any time you have them.
Be patient with yourself. There’s so much to learn, and change happens a little at a time. Take care of yourself and be with people who support you.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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