Eating disorders are complex biopsychosocial disorders which require medical, psychological, and nutritional intervention.
Common Symptoms and Behaviors
- The individual typically experiences significant body image disturbance or distortion.
- The individual overemphasizes the importance of weight/appearance on self-worth and identity. In general, there is a belief that being thin or losing weight will result in a positive outcome (e.g., increased success, increased peer acceptance) or that gaining weight or being fat will result in a negative outcome (e.g., failure, peer rejection).
- These thought patterns are associated with behaviors intended to decrease weight or prevent weight gain and are not behaviors that would be recommended by a medical professional. These behaviors may or may not logically be expected to result in weight loss, particularly in children and adolescents who may have a misunderstanding of what results are realistic for a given behavior.
- Eating disorders are often associated with significant symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. These concerns may warrant a separate diagnosis or may be a result of malnutrition, even in those who appear to be of normal weight.
- Eating disorder behaviors are maladaptive coping strategies. They are ways to manage negative situations and emotions that are effective in the short-term and damaging in the long run. Therefore, engaging in these behaviors often makes sense to the individual when parents and other adults are baffled.