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Eating Disorder Questions and Answers

· What is anorexia?
· What is bulimia?
· What is binge eating disorder?
· What is compulsive eating?
· What is orthorexia?
· What causes eating disorders?
· What are the medical complications of eating disorders?
· How can you tell if you have an eating disorder?
· How do you treat an eating disorder?
· How many people have eating disorders?

What is anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is one of the most prevalent of all eating disorders and one of the most life threatening. A person suffering from anorexia refuses to maintain a healthy body weight. Anorexics have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat and strive for perfection. Due to the loss of fat and weight, girls and women may suffer repeated missed menstrual cycles. People suffering from anorexia are generally very restrictive in their eating habits.

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What is bulimia?

A person who suffers from bulimia binges and purges. Bulimics will eat a large quantity of food in a short amount of time and then self-induce vomiting. They do this to punish themselves or because they feel overwhelmed, sometimes with feeling fat but sometimes out of frustration or anger. Binging and purging will occur at least twice a week for three months. People with bulimia don't usually lose as much weight as people with anorexia.

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Binge Eating Disorder

A person who suffers from binge eating disorder periodically goes on a large binge (like with bulimia) but does not purge afterwards. They are typically at a normal weight or overweight. They often binge to hide their emotions, fill a void in their lives, or as self-punishment. To be diagnosed as binge eating, this behavior will need to occur at least twice a week for six months. Binge eating disorder is probably the most common eating disorder.

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Compulsive Overeating

Compulsive overeaters use food to fill a void, hide from their emotions or cope with their problems. They tend to be overweight and use their physical appearance as a barrier. People who suffer from compulsive eating typically have very low self-esteem and feel shame about their weight. Unfortunately, they comfort themselves with food when they feel this shame, creating a cycle of emotional highs and lows.

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Those who have an "unhealthy obsession" with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from "orthorexia nervosa," a term which literally means "fixation on righteous eating." (NEDA.) Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.

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What causes eating disorders?

There is rarely a simple explanation for an eating disorder. It is an extremely complex problem and may be caused by a number of factors which may include family and cultural pressures, chronic stress and heredity. At some point in that person's life there is an event or a series of occurrences and situations which symbolizes one or more of the following scenarios:

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What are the medical complications of eating disorders?

Eating disorders have seriourefs long-term health consequences, some of which are life-threatening. The more severe or long lasting the eating disorder, the more likely you are to experience serious medical complications.

How do you tell if you have an eating disorder?

If you're concerned that you, a friend or a family member might be suffering from anorexia or bulimia nervosa, please consult this list of warning signs and symptoms.

To find out if you should seek further evaluation from a doctor, take our online Eating Disorder Quiz and get instant access to your eating disorder profile, with recommendations for additional reading and follow-up.

If you need help right now call us at 800-520-1700 or email us at

How do you treat an eating disorder?

Eating disorder treatment centers provide four basic levels of care: inpatient, residential, day treatment and outpatient. Finding an eating disorder treatment center that suits your needs is one of the most important decisions anyone will make! Before you decide, check out these questions to ask before you choose a treatment center.

Most eating disorder treatment programs include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, along with nutrition education, individualized meal plans and family therapy. At Mirasol, these well-established therapies are combined with proven alternative and experiential therapies including neurofeedback, adventure therapy and energy psychology.

How many people have eating disorders?

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health estimates that 8 million Americans (seven million women and one million men) have an eating disorder. Eating disorder statistics provided by the National Eating Disorder Association are even higher, and indicate that 10 million American women suffer from eating disorders.

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FREE Eating Disorder Support Group!

FREE weekly eating disorder support group for adults struggling with food issues, staffed by therapists from Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers. Thursdays from 5:30-6:45 pm at 3116 N Swan in Tucson. For more information, call 520-546-3200.

"Mirasol is light years ahead of any other program in the country."