Millions of Americans struggle with common eating disorders. On the surface, many of the most common eating disorders may seem like lifestyle choices, but when you dig deeper into the psychology behind each condition, that’s simply not the case. For many eating disorder sufferers, thoughts around body image, food intake, and exercise consume their waking moments. And, unfortunately, those distorted thoughts affect more than just their bodies — they affect every facet of daily life.
Below, you’ll find a brief overview of the three most common eating disorders, along with the most prevalent symptoms of each condition. If you or a loved one has been grappling with these disordered eating patterns, recognizing the signs is the first step in seeking professional eating disorder treatment and taking back control of your health.
What Are the Most Common Eating Disorders?
Most people immediately think of anorexia or bulimia when they hear the term “eating disorder.” But, while those two conditions may be the most well-known, they represent just a fraction of the disordered eating patterns plaguing women and men today. Currently, three of the most common eating disorders in the United States are:
- Binge eating disorder (BED)
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
Many individuals who’ve struggled with one or more of the above conditions also exhibit signs of co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. The development and persistence of each disorder typically stem from underlying emotional or psychiatric health conditions that, unfortunately, exacerbate the characteristic cognitive and behavioral patterns of each condition.
Binge Eating Disorder
If you’re familiar with the concept of binging, you can imagine what binge eating disorder involves. However, those who struggle with this often secretive condition don’t just binge on occasion; they eat excessive quantities of food recurrently, sometimes even on a daily basis. The most prevalent signs of BED include:
- Hoarding food and storing it in secretive locations
- Binge eating large quantities of food, often to the point of discomfort
- Setting aside secret, uninterrupted blocks of time for binge sessions
- Stealing food
- Feelings of disgust and guilt after overeating
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of compulsion and lack of control around food and eating
People who struggle with binge eating disorder frequently grapple with distorted body image and distress about their eating habits. Unfortunately, though, due to the psychological nature of the condition, they often feel incapable of confronting their binging habits.
Anorexia is the most well-known of all common eating disorders. This severe, potentially life-threatening condition is more common among females, but increasingly, males have opened up about their struggles with the condition, too.
Due to the physical, hormonal, and cognitive changes that occur during adolescence, anorexia often develops during young adulthood, and when left untreated, can persist into adulthood. The most prevalent symptoms of this disorder include:
- Rapid, extreme weight loss
- Severely restricting food intake
- Excessive exercise
- Rigidity around eating schedules and dietary choices
- Thinning hair, brittle nails, and yellowing skin
- Preoccupation with thinness, body weight, and physique measurements
- Irrational fear of gaining weight
Individuals who struggle with this debilitating condition frequently exhibit obsessive-compulsive symptoms as well, such as hoarding recipes and obsessive thoughts about eating. The condition is so psychologically pervasive that even when a sufferer is far below a healthy weight, he or she cannot see the severe deterioration of their physical appearance.
Like anorexia, bulimia nervosa is well-known among common eating disorders. The condition is characterized by many of the same symptoms as BED, but it often develops as a result of highly restrictive eating patterns. In addition to binging behavior, the condition is also characterized by feelings of guilt and subsequent purging. The most noticeable symptoms of bulimia include:
- Rapidly eating large quantities of food to the point of discomfort
- Vomiting or laxative use to purge large quantities of food
- Feelings of guilt, shame, and disgust after excessive food intake
- Distorted body image even at a normal, healthy weight
- Skipping meals
- Avoiding specific foods or restricting the intake of those foods
- Long periods of fasting to compensate for overeating
- Excessive exercise to compensate for overeating
Physical signs of the disorder include tooth decay, enamel deterioration, dehydration, swollen salivary glands, and sore throat, which develop as a result of frequent purging and the corrosive nature of stomach acid. When severe, bulimia can even result in a heart attack or stroke due to improper electrolyte balance that occurs with excessive purging behavior.
Crossroads Maine Treats Common Eating Disorders
At Crossroads Maine, we know how debilitating an eating disorder can be, and we also know that suffering in silence is no way to live your life. No matter what type of eating disorder you’re living with, our compassionate team is here to help. At our Portland, ME treatment center, we offer both residential eating disorder treatment and intensive outpatient programs to help you take back control of your health and look to the future with confidence and hope. To learn more about how we can help you find relief, contact our team at 877.978.1667.