Eating Disorders: Signs, Types, & Treatment


million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime

Eating disorders are complex and serious mental health conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. Disordered eating can take a toll on physical health, emotional well-being, and relationships. Understanding the signs, different types, and available treatment options can help people find hope and support on their journey to eating disorder recovery.

If you or a loved one is dealing with an eating disorder, reach out to our team and get help from our eating disorder treatment center in Orange County.

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What Is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is an intricate mental health condition that goes beyond simple concerns about food and body image. It is characterized by distorted thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to eating, weight, and shape. These disorders often become a coping mechanism for people struggling with various psychological, emotional, or social challenges.

Individuals with eating disorders may experience intense anxiety and distress surrounding their body size or shape. They may have a distorted perception of their appearance, seeing themselves as overweight even when they are objectively underweight. As a result, they may engage in extreme efforts to control their weight, leading to dangerous physical and emotional consequences.

Eating disorder statistics suggest that the most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, BED (binge eating disorder), and ARFID eating disorder (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder). Each type has unique features, but all share a common thread of causing significant impairment in an individual’s daily life, relationships, and overall well-being. 

Eating disorders are not simply lifestyle choices or matters of willpower. They are serious medical conditions with both physical and psychological components. While societal pressures, cultural ideals, and media portrayals of an idealized body can contribute to the development of eating disorders, they are multifactorial in nature and involve a combination of biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

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Signs of an Eating Disorder

Recognizing eating disorder signs can help inform early detection and intervention. That said, each individual’s experience is unique, and not everyone will exhibit all these signs of an eating disorder. Some common symptoms of eating disorders include:
Drastic changes in weight

Rapid weight loss or significant fluctuations in weight may indicate an eating disorder.

Obsession with body image

Constantly checking the mirror, expressing dissatisfaction with appearance, or avoiding social situations due to perceived body flaws.

Restrictive eating patterns

Extremely limiting food intake, skipping meals, or following strict dietary rules.

Binge eating

Consuming large amounts of food within a short period, often accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame, is one of the most common eating disorders symptoms.

Social withdrawal

Avoiding social events involving food or making excuses to avoid meals with others.

Excessive exercise

Engaging in intense workouts beyond healthy levels, often to burn off calories consumed.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders manifest in various forms, each with distinct characteristics and challenges. Different types of eating disorders include:
Anorexia nervosa

Characterized by severe calorie restriction, fear of weight gain, and a distorted body image. Individuals with anorexia often view themselves as overweight despite being underweight.

Bulimia nervosa

Involves recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by purging behaviors to rid the body of calories. People with bulimia may maintain a normal weight or fluctuate within a healthy range.

BED (binge eating disorder)

Marked by recurrent binge eating without compensatory behaviors. Individuals with BED feel a lack of control during episodes. Binge eating disorder symptoms may include feelings of shame and guilt after eating an excessive amount of food.


An emerging eating disorder centered around an unhealthy obsession with eating only foods they perceive as healthy, often leading to social isolation and malnutrition.

ARFID (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder)

Characterized by a persistent lack of interest in eating or avoidance of specific foods due to sensory issues or fear of adverse consequences.

OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorders)

A category encompassing eating disorders that do not fit the specific criteria for other types but still involve significant distress and impairment.

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If you have been feeling any of these symptoms, and you are in need of help, please give our friendly team a call.

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Treatment for Eating Disorders

Effective eating disorder treatments involve a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, dietitians, and medical doctors. Each member of the team plays a critical role in addressing the various aspects of the disorder and providing comprehensive care. 

Psychotherapy – especially CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) – is a cornerstone of eating disorder treatment. CBT helps individuals identify and change distorted thought patterns and behaviors related to food, body image, and weight. It also helps people tackle any underlying emotional issues that may contribute to the development and maintenance of the eating disorder.

 Nutritional counseling is a key component of eating disorder therapy. A registered dietitian works closely with individuals to develop a balanced and sustainable meal plan tailored to their specific needs. Nutritional counseling aims to restore a healthy relationship with food and promote overall physical well-being. 

Medical management is beneficial, especially for individuals with severe eating disorders or those experiencing medical complications. Medical doctors monitor physical health, deal with any nutritional deficiencies, and manage any co-occurring medical conditions.

Group therapy provides a supportive environment where individuals with eating disorders can connect with others who have lived experience of similar challenges. Sharing experiences, concerns, and successes in a group setting promotes a sense of community and reduces feelings of isolation.

FBT (family-based therapy) is an evidence-based approach primarily used for adolescents with eating disorders. It involves family members in the treatment process and aims to empower them to support the individual’s recovery. FBT focuses on restoring healthy eating habits and facilitating open communication within the family.

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to address co-occurring mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety which often accompany eating disorders. Medication can be a helpful adjunct to psychotherapy and other therapeutic interventions.

In addition to traditional treatments, holistic therapies like yoga, art therapy, mindfulness, and meditation may complement the recovery process. These therapies can help individuals develop coping skills, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

 Eating disorder treatment is a journey that requires ongoing support. A comprehensive treatment program should include a continuum of care, starting with inpatient or residential care, followed by intensive outpatient treatment, and eventually transitioning to outpatient care and aftercare support. Every individual’s experience with an eating disorder is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Effective treatment programs develop individualized treatment plans tailored to each person’s specific needs, challenges, and goals.

Eating Disorders FAQ

What are the two major eating disorders?

The two major eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, characterized by extreme behaviors related to food and body image.

Who is most likely to have an eating disorder?

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, but they are more commonly observed in young females.

Which eating disorder is the most common?

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder, marked by frequent episodes of uncontrollable eating without purging behaviors.

What is it like to struggle with an eating disorder?

Struggling with an eating disorder can be incredibly challenging and may lead to physical, emotional, and social consequences, causing significant distress. Eating disorder treatment centers can help you address any type of disordered eating.

What is the treatment for eating disorders?

Eating disorder treatment often involves a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and medication, tailored to each individual’s needs to address the psychological and physical aspects of the disorder.

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Eating Disorder Treatment: Orange County

At Connections Mental Health’s eating disorder treatment program in Southern California, we take pride in providing personalized and compassionate treatment for those struggling with eating disorders. Our primary focus is on creating a safe and nurturing environment where individuals seeking healing can find support and peace. With our team of expert staff dedicated to individualized care, we are committed to helping people achieve profound healing while fostering lasting connections.

When you choose Connections Mental Health, you’re choosing a reliable partner in your journey towards recovery and overall well-being. Our treatment approach is evidence-based and firmly grounded in the latest knowledge of eating disorders. Benefit from 24/7 supervision with at least two staff members present at all times, ensuring that your safety and well-being remain a top priority.

With a compassionate-first approach, we prioritize treating the person and not just the symptoms of their eating disorder. Our main goal is to create an atmosphere that feels more like a home than a hospital, where you can heal surrounded by the serene beauty of Southern California.

Whether you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or any other eating disorder, our Orange Country eating disorder treatment center is here to support you on the path to restoring daily functioning and achieving mental health. Engage with compassionate treatment that integrates science-backed interventions and holistic therapies, taking the first step towards a brighter future at Connections Mental Health.

Call our eating disorder treatment program in Orange County at (844) 413-0009 to learn more about our personalized treatment plans and begin your journey to healing at Connections.

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