Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious medical illnesses. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may be signs of an eating disorder. These disorders can affect a person’s mental and physical health; in some cases, they can be life-threatening. But eating disorders can be treated. Learning more about them can help you spot the warning signs and seek treatment early.


What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious mental health condition in which an individual has an excessive fear of being overweight, tends to overemphasize the importance of their body’s appearance, and are not able to maintain a healthy body weight.

People with anorexia maintain a low body weight either by restricting their calorie intake (through extreme dieting or fasting), or by compensating for their calorie intake by intentional vomiting, and/or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or excessive exercise.

The lack of adequate nutrition caused by anorexia can damage major organs in the body, often leading to serious and sometimes fatal, medical complications. Compensatory techniques (e.g., purging, use of laxatives) can also cause very serious or fatal medical problems. In addition to medical complications, people with anorexia have higher rates of suicide than most other mental illness diagnoses.

Among women with anorexia, amenorrhea, or the absence of normal menstrual cycles, is often a side effect.

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is a disorder in which people have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large quantities of food (binges) during which they feel a lack of control over their eating. These episodes are followed by compensatory behavior using unhealthy techniques (e.g., fasting, intentional vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas, diuretics or other medications, or excessive exercise). Individuals with bulimia nervosa typically maintain a normal body weight.

For people with bulimia, self-esteem is excessively connected to their weight and body appearance.

Both uncontrolled eating and compensatory behaviors can cause serious, potentially fatal, medical complications.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder is a condition in which people frequently eat unusually large quantities of food (binges) during which they feel a lack of control of their eating.

People with binge eating disorder feel a strong sense of shame about their eating habits and often go to great lengths to keep their binging habits secret.

Unlike with bulimia nervosa, people with binge eating disorder do not make unhealthy efforts to compensate for their calorie intake by vomiting, excessive exercise, or misuse of medications.


Want to learn more about eating disorders?


UM Depression Toolkit
The Depression Center Toolkit provides information, tools, support, and resources to guide you through your mental health journey.

A mental health resource database designed by CAPS.

National Eating Disorders Association
Provides information on eating disorders in different populations, links to help find treatment, and toolkits for both parents and educators.


The Body Image Workbook by Thomas Cash, 2008
This book offers a comprehensive program to help you stop focusing on your perceived imperfections and start feeling more confident about the way you look.

Next to Nothing: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager’s Experience with an Eating Disorder by Carrie Arnold, 2007
Carrie Arnold shares her story of developing and recovering from anorexia, along with advice for readers struggling with disordered eating.

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown, 2010
This book chronicle of a family’s struggle with anorexia nervosa, from starvation, to diagnosis and treatment, to recovery.

Beating Your Eating Disorder: A Cognitive–Behavioral Self-Help Guide by Glenn Waller, 2010
This book gives a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach to the treatment of and recovery from eating disorders in an accessible format.

Help your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder by James Lock, 2010
This book makes the case that parental involvement in the eating disorder recovery process is essential and possible.

The Oxford Handbook of Eating Disorders by W Agras, 2010
This book reviews current research and clinical developments through synthetic chapters written by experts from various fields of study and clinical backgrounds.

My Kid is Back: Empowering Parents to Beat Anorexia by June Alexander, 2010
This book explains how family-based treatment can greatly reduce the severity of anorexia nervosa in children and adolescents, allowing the sufferer to return to normal eating patterns, and their families to return to normal family life.

100 Questions and Answers about Eating Disorders by Carolyn Costin, 2007
Therapist Carolyn Costin draws on her practice in treating eating disorders and her own recovery from anorexia, to answer questions she is commonly asked on the subject.

Anorexia Nervosa: A Guide to Recovery by Lindsey Hall, 1999
A guidebook that includes Q&A, personal stories from those who are and have recovered from anorexia, exercises, and information on a healthy diet and weight.

Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery by Lindsey Hall, 1999
This book provides answers to common questions, advice for loved-ones, a 3 week program to stop bingeing, and personal stories of recovery.

For treatment and support options, see our find treatment services section or our support resources section.


Get Help Now - Crisis Text Line 741-741 // Call U-M Crisis Phone Line: (734) 936-5900 or (734) 996-4747