Eating Disorders 

National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder in their lives.

Growing consensus suggests that Eating disorders are caused by a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.  

Anorexia nervosa

An eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat. Some people with the disorder also exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives, and/or binge eat.

Anorexia can affect people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities. Historians and psychologists have found evidence of people displaying symptoms of anorexia for hundreds or thousands of years. 

Although the disorder most frequently begins during adolescence, an increasing number of children and older adults are also being diagnosed with anorexia. You cannot tell if a person is struggling with anorexia by looking at them. A person does not need to be emaciated or underweight to be struggling. Studies have found that larger-bodied individuals can also have anorexia, although they may be less likely to be diagnosed due to cultural prejudice against fat and obesity.

Bulimia nervosa

A serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

Binge eating disorder (BED)

A severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States.

BED is one of the newest eating disorders formally recognized in the DSM-5. Before the most recent revision in 2013, BED was listed as a subtype of EDNOS (now referred to as OSFED). The change is important because some insurance companies will not cover eating disorder treatment without a DSM diagnosis.


Coined in 1998 and means an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating. Not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, awareness about orthorexia is on the rise. Although being aware of and concerned with the nutritional quality of the food you eat isn’t a problem in and of itself, people with orthorexia become so fixated on so-called ‘healthy eating’ that they actually damage their own well-being.

Without formal diagnostic criteria, it’s difficult to get an estimate on precisely how many people have orthorexia, and whether it’s a stand-alone eating disorder, a type of existing eating disorders like anorexia, or a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Studies have shown that many individuals with orthorexia also have obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) 

A new diagnosis in the DSM-5, and was previously referred to as “Selective Eating Disorder.” ARFID is similar to anorexia in that both disorders involve limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed, but unlike anorexia, ARFID does not involve any distress about body shape or size, or fears of fatness.

Although many children go through phases of picky or selective eating, a person with ARFID does not consume enough calories to grow and develop properly and, in adults, to maintain basic body function. In children, this results in stalled weight gain and vertical growth; in adults, this results in weight loss. ARFID can also result in problems at school or work, due to difficulties eating with others and extended times needed to eat.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED)

Previously known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) in past editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Despite being considered a ‘catch-all’ classification that was sometimes denied insurance coverage for treatment as it was seen as less serious, OSFED/EDNOS is a serious, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder. The category was developed to encompass those individuals who did not meet strict diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa but still had a significant eating disorder. In community clinics, the majority of individuals were historically diagnosed with EDNOS.





  • The Academy for Eating Disorders conference (ICED). This organization of medical and mental health professionals and researchers promotes evidence-based practice for the treatment of eating disorders.

  • The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) conference. BEDA is a national organization focused on providing leadership, recognition, prevention, and treatment of binge eating disorder and associated weight stigma.

  • The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP) conference. IAEDP is an organization devoted to education and training standards for eating disorder treatment providers and allied helping professionals.

  • The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) conference. MEDA’s mission is to combat the continuing spread of eating disorders through educational awareness and early detection. MEDA serves as a support network and resource for clients, loved ones, clinicians, educators, and the general public.

  • UCSD's Eating Disorder Center for Treatment and Research. Providing evidenced-based treatment by advanced clinicians and supporting all clinical work by the Neuriobiological research (and other) done directly in the center. UCSD EDC publishes multiple pieces of research annually from MRI's and other direct clinical research.