Call us today: 732-655-4568 | 119 Maple Ave. Red Bank, NJ 07701 | Hours: Mon-Fri 9am – 6pm

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are conditions where people have a difficult relationship with food and their own body image. This often means they’re very worried about their weight, which leads to unhealthy eating patterns and a lot of emotional stress. It’s not only about food choices; these disorders often stem from a mix of genetic factors, personal experiences, and environmental influences.

Approximately 5% of the population struggles with eating disorders, which usually emerge during adolescence or early adulthood. Women are more likely to suffer from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, but no age or gender is immune. Sufferers often obsess over food, weight, and body shape, or develop eating-related anxieties.

Consequentially, they may display behaviors such as restrictive eating, avoiding certain foods, or indulging in binge eating. Some may also use vomiting or laxatives as a purge method after bingeing or doing excessive exercise. These practices can become compulsive over time, much like an addiction.


Different types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is associated with an intense fear of gaining weight, resulting in self-imposed starvation and significant weight loss. This harmful eating problem is the second leading cause of death after opioid addiction. It is characterized by a low body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 in adults.

Anorexia nervosa can be split into two categories:

The restricting type involves individuals primarily losing weight through dieting, fasting, or exercising excessively

The binge-eating/purging type includes people who intermittently engage in excessive eating and/or purging behaviors.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where people experience periods of overeating followed by efforts to avoid weight gain. Often, they might indulge in large amounts of food, especially high-calorie ones they consider “off-limits.” After these eating sessions, feelings of guilt or shame might set in. To counteract the binge, they may then skip meals, force themselves to vomit, use laxatives, or exercise excessively.

However, bulimia isn’t just about food habits. It deeply affects how people view themselves. They may often worry about their weight, body shape, and food, influencing their self-worth. Anyone, regardless of their body weight, can have bulimia. Recognizing these patterns is essential because bulimia can lead to severe health issues. It’s crucial for individuals showing these signs to seek support and guidance.

Binge Eating disorder

Binge eating disorder involves individuals experiencing episodes where they eat large amounts of food in a short time. During these times, they feel a loss of control over their eating habits which can cause them distress.

his disorder differs from bulimia nervosa as people with binge eating disorder don’t consistently have ways to remove the food consumed like vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, or misuse of laxatives. Binge eating disorder plays a significant role in leading to grave health complications such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other health related side effects.

Binge eating disorder is different to bulimia nervosa. People with binge eating disorder don’t usually use methods like vomiting, fasting, or extreme exercise to get rid of the large amounts of food they eat. It’s important to note that binge eating disorder can seriously impact health. It can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health issues.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID, previously known as “Selective Eating Disorder,” goes beyond just picky eating in kids. People with ARFID have a limited range or variety of foods they prefer, which can sometimes be about the food’s texture, color, or smell, not necessarily its taste.

Unlike anorexia, those with ARFID don’t limit their food intake because of their body image or fear of gaining weight. Instead, they might avoid certain foods due to a past negative experience, like choking or vomiting, leading to fears about eating. The limitation in their diet can lead to significant nutritional deficiencies or weight loss.

Another difference is that ARFID doesn’t only appear during childhood. While many kids naturally outgrow picky eating, some continue into adulthood with their restrictive eating patterns. It’s essential to recognize and address ARFID, as it can greatly impact an individual’s health, growth, and overall well-being. Like all eating disorders, early intervention and treatment can make a big difference.


This involves eating non-food items, such as dirt, chalk, or hair. It’s more common in children, pregnant women, and individuals with intellectual disabilities but can occur in others as well.

Night Eating Syndrome (NES)

NES is characterized by the consumption of large portions of food during the night, often after awakening from sleep. Individuals with NES might have little appetite during the day but experience intense hunger in the evening and night. This disorder can disrupt sleep patterns and may be associated with stress, anxiety, or hormonal imbalances.

Risk Factors involved in Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are multifaceted mental health conditions influenced by various risk factors. Genetic predisposition, psychological traits like perfectionism and low self-esteem, societal pressures on body image, and a history of dieting or weight-related behaviors can all contribute to the risk of developing an eating disorder. 

Childhood trauma or abuse, dysfunctional family environments, and involvement in sports that prioritize specific body types can also increase susceptibility. While eating disorders can affect individuals of any age or gender, they are more commonly diagnosed in females during adolescence and young adulthood. 

Cultural, socioeconomic, and co-occurring mental health factors further complicate the picture. It’s essential to recognize these risk factors and seek early intervention and professional support when necessary to promote recovery and well-being for those at risk or already struggling with eating disorders.

Do I have an eating disorder?

Diagnosing eating disorders involves a thorough evaluation of a person’s behaviors, thoughts, and physical health. The diagnosis typically includes a clinical interview, a physical exam, and various diagnostic tests.


Eating disorders come from a combination of factors. Some are biological, like genes that might make someone more likely to develop these conditions. Chemicals in the brain, which control our feelings about food and emotions, can also play a role.


Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, can be challenging. Thankfully, a variety of treatments can help individuals on their path to recovery. Medical care is essential for those facing immediate health concerns related to their disorder.