Mental Health

Many of us pay attention to what we eat and how we look. But people with eating disorders go to extremes. If you are worried about a loved one, learn more about these serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

  • Take a screening - Free and confidential screening for eating disorders provided by the National Eating Disorders Association

Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors involving weight and food.The following information from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services outlines three of the most common eating disorders. Effective treatment IS available.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that makes people lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height. Persons with this disorder may have an intense fear of weight gain, even when they are underweight. They may diet or exercise too much, or use other methods to lose weight. Anorexia usually begins during the teen years or young adulthood. It is more common in females, but may also be seen in males.

Behaviors to watch for

  • Severely limiting the amount of food they eat or eating, then making themselves throw up
  • Cutting food into small pieces or moving them around the plate instead of eating
  • Exercising all the time, even when the weather is bad, they are hurt, or their schedule is busy
  • Going to the bathroom right after meals
  • Refusing to eat around other people
  • Using pills to make themselves urinate (water pills or diuretics), have a bowel movement (enemas and laxatives), or decrease their appetite (diet pills)

Binge eating

Binge eating is when a person eats a much larger amount of food in a shorter period of time than he or she normally would. A binge eater often eats 5,000 to 15,000 calories in one sitting and also snacks during the day. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control. Binge eating may occur on its own or with another eating disorder, such as bulimia.


Someone with bulimia binges on food or has regular episodes of overeating -- often in secret -- and feels a loss of control. The person then uses different methods -- such as vomiting or abusing laxatives -- to prevent weight gain. The disorder is most common in adolescent girls and young women. The affected person is usually aware that her eating pattern is abnormal and may feel fear or guilt with the binge-purge episodes.

Behaviors to watch for
Because the person's weight is often normal, other people may not notice this eating disorder. Symptoms that other people can see include:

  • Compulsive exercise
  • Suddenly eating large amounts of food or buying large amounts of food that disappear right away
  • Regularly going to the bathroom right after meals
  • Throwing away packages of laxatives, diet pills, emetics (drugs that cause vomiting), or diuretics

Get help now

It is important that a person with an eating disorder get help right away. The Admissions team at Riverside Behavioral Health Center can connect you with appropriate resources: 757-827-1001.