What Families Need to Know About Eating Disorders

The most commonly known types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which can occur simultaneously or separately. There’s many misconceptions about what an eating disorder looks like – such as that one must be very skinny, which is not always true. Someone suffering from binge eating disorder may in fact actually be overweight. The most important thing to know about eating disorders is that they are serious illnesses and require medical attention which may include intensive eating disorder treatment.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder characterized by either a significantly reduced appetite or complete aversion to eating. It is a potentially life-threatening disease that affects approximately 1% of teenage girls in the US, but can also affect adults and males.

Being underweight and not having a normal diet may have an effect on the brain which reinforces the behaviors and obsessive thoughts related to anorexia nervosa. In other words, under-eating and being underweight can set off a cycle of further weight loss and under-eating.

The following risk factors have been associated with anorexia nervosa:

  • Being overly obsessed with rules
  • Having a tendency towards depression
  • Being overly worried about one’s weight and shape
  • Being excessively worried, doubtful and/or scared about the future
  • Being a perfectionist
  • Having a negative self image
  • Having eating problems during early childhood or infancy
  • Having had an anxiety disorder during childhood
  • Holding specific cultural/social ideas regarding beauty and health
  • Inhibition – the individual restrains or controls his or her behavior and expression

Psychological signs and symptoms:

  • Underweight patients who insist they are overweight
  • Patients who frequently weigh themselves, look at their bodies in the mirror, and measure themselves
  • Obsession with food – the patient may spend a long time reading recipes and cookery books
  • Lying about what they have eaten
  • Not eating, refusing to eat
  • Lack of emotion
  • Depressed mood
  • Denial – patients refuse to acknowledge they have a problem or serious illness
  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Over-exercising

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is a serious psychiatric illness, an eating disorder in which the person regularly binge-eats and then tries to compensate for that behavior by over-exercising and purging (by vomiting and/or using laxatives). People with bulimia may be anywhere from underweight, to normal weight, to overweight.  It is estimated that as much as 3% of college-aged women have bulimia. 

A person with bulimia nervosa binges on food regularly and feels a loss of control. Binging involves eating large amounts of high-calorie foods over a short period. When the binge starts it is extremely difficult to stop. Some patients say they consume the food so fast that they hardly taste it.

The binge is followed by a feeling of guilt and shame, which leads to compensatory actions, such as self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, not eating, and overusing diuretics, enemas or laxatives.

The following signs and symptoms are also common in patients with bulimia nervosa:

  • Body weight keeps fluctuating
  • An obsession with eating and food
  • Enormous resources (money) devoted to food
  • After eating, the patient disappears (in most cases to purge)
  • Episodes of eating too much
  • Periods of strict fasting, which may include denial of hunger
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Chronic sore/inflamed throat – the acidity of vomit affects the throat
  • Unexplained damage to teeth – the acidity of vomit affects the teeth
  • Swollen cheeks
  • Unexpected packages of laxatives, emetics (drugs to induce vomiting), diuretics and diet pills may be found hidden away, or their packaging thrown away in the trash
  • Constantly complaining about being overweight

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is diagnosed when a person:

  • Continues to binge eat over time (eating more food all at once than most people would eat in the same setting)
  • Feels a lack of control during binge eating
  • Eats fast during binges
  • Overeats to the point of discomfort
  • Eats a lot when not hungry
  • Eats alone out of shame
  • Feels disgusted with themselves, depressed or very guilty after overeating
  • Is worried about their binge eating

Binge eating disorder does not include the purging consistent with anorexia and bulimia.  It may be the most common eating disorder.  About 40% of obese people may have this problem.

If you or someone you care about may be suffering from an eating disorder of any kind, it is vital that you get help as soon as possible. This is a serious and life-threatening disease that cannot go unaddressed. Our expert team for eating disorders treatment in Delray Beach is here to assist you and your loved ones overcome this. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.


Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez


Existing patients, please text 561-409-7296 for follow-up appointment requests or if you have medication concerns please text 561-409-7296.