Who has eating disorders?
What are the signs and symptoms of anorexia or bulimia?
Extreme weight loss and believing that one is fat despite excessive thinness are key
features of anorexia. The following behaviors are signs that a person may have
People who have bulimia regularly binge-eat and then attempt to prevent gaining weight
from their binge through purging (e.g., vomiting, abusing laxatives, exercising
excessively). The following are signs of bulimia:
What causes eating disorders?
As with most mental illnesses, eating disorders are not caused by just one factor but
by a combination of sociocultural, psychological and biological factors.
Sociocultural and psychological factors:
What other mental illnesses commonly “co-occur” with eating disorders?
Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and alcohol/drug addiction are sometimes
found in people with eating disorders. Some of these disorders may influence the
development of an eating disorder, and some are consequences of it. Many times, eating
and co-occurring disorders reinforce each other, creating a vicious cycle.
What are the long-term effects of eating disorders?
Left untreated, eating disorders may lead to malnutrition; muscle atrophy; dry skin,
hair, and nails; dental problems; insomnia or chronic fatigue; ulcers; low blood
pressure; diabetes; anemia; kidney, liver, and pancreas failure; osteoporosis and
arthritis; infertility; seizures; heart attack; and death:
What treatments are available?
Eating disorders are treatable. The sooner they are diagnosed and treated, the better
the outcomes are likely to be. Eating disorders require a comprehensive, long-term
treatment plan that usually involves individual or family therapy, and that may include
medication and even immediate hospitalization. Unfortunately, many people with eating
disorders will not admit they are ill and refuse treatment. Support from family and
friends is vital to successful treatment and recovery.
For more information about the National Mental Health Association or additional
resources, please call 1-800-969-NMHA(6642) or visit the NMHA website resource
NMHA’s Campaign for America’s Mental Health works to raise awareness that mental
illnesses are common, real and treatable and to ensure that those most at-risk receive
proper, timely and effective treatment. For information about the Campaign or to
request materials, call 1-800-969-NMHA (6642).
This fact sheet is a publication of NMHA’s Campaign for America’s Mental Health. The
Campaign is made possible through funding from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP,
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, The E.H.A. Foundation, Eli Lilly and Company, Forest
Laboratories, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals,
Organon, Inc., Pfizer Inc and Wyeth.