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Eating Disorders (An Overview)

Written by Caitlin Wheeler

Eating Disorders…What Are They?

Many people have heard the words “eating disorder” at least once. But how many really know what they mean? There isn’t really one way to define what eating disorders are; there are different ways to describe and explain them. One article defines them as “...psychological disorders in which individuals have disordered eating and are typically obsessed with food, body image, and/or body weight” while another’s definition is “...psychological conditions that involve either overeating, voluntary starvation, obsession about food quality or body image, or a combination of these.” Eating disorders are generally considered to be a group of mental disorders that involve food intake and/or body image. It is unclear as to exactly what causes eating disorders, but scientists believe a variety of factors are involved, like environment, societal pressures, and trauma or other mental disorders like depression.

What Eating Disorders Are There?

There are many eating disorders, and many combinations and subtypes of these disorders. Some common ones include:

  • Anorexia nervosa

  • Bulimia nervosa

  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

  • Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

  • Rumination Disorder

  • Orthorexia nervosa

All of these disorders are complex and hard to briefly explain. Future blog posts will be written about each disorder specifically, so if you’re intrigued look out for those!

The Author’s Perspective

I’ve had my own experiences with anorexia nervosa and the biggest thing I can stress to anyone reading this is DO NOT EVER DEVELOP AN EATING DISORDER IF YOU CAN HELP IT. You can’t “try it out” and decide if you like it. Eating disorders are not free trials; once you’ve developed one, it’s often very hard to recover from. Not at all impossible – many people recover from eating disorders and live happy lives – but trust me and the millions of other survivors; it’s way easier to just never develop the problem in the first place rather than try to recover afterward. Anorexia took over every aspect of my life. It was torture. It almost killed me. I am still living through the long-term consequences and I’m a year into my recovery. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. AT ALL. I’ve explained my experience to countless people and I still never know quite how to put it into words. For me personally, anorexia took over me as a person. All my thoughts were about food and calories and how much I hated my body. I stopped hanging out with my friends because I was afraid I’d have to eat in front of them or that they’d notice my weight problem (which was entirely in my head). I wore long, loose clothes because I was so ashamed of my body. I became obsessed with counting every calorie I consumed, always looking for shortcuts. I lied to my family about it for months, which deepened my paranoia and distrust of them. I created a complex web of lies to feed my eating disorder (the pun there would be funny if this weren’t so serious). Recovery was long and painful but 100% worth it. So, although YOU SHOULD NEVER DEVELOP AN EATING DISORDER, if you already have one or are attempting to recover let me say that RECOVERY IS WORTH IT AND IT IS POSSIBLE. Even when it feels impossible, please just keep going. Keep trying. Because you can do it. It is definitely possible to beat your eating disorder and you are not alone in your fight.

What Resources Are There For People With Eating Disorders and Their Loved Ones?

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, don’t lose hope; there are many resources out there for both immediate/emergency help as well as long-term recovery. Keep in mind that although some of these resources are not specifically designed for eating disorders, they still provide help and valuable information.

Emergency Resources

Resources in bold are available 24/7.

Long-Term/Non-Emergency Resources


Image: "empty notebook with healthy food ingredients, top view” - Marco Verch - available under Creative Commons license 2.0.

Davidson, Tish, and Megan Porter. "Eating Disorders." The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, edited by Jacqueline L. Longe, 6th ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2020, pp. 1685-91. Gale in Context: Science, Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

Ross-flanigan, Nancy. "Eating Disorders." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, edited by Katherine H. Nemeh and Jacqueline L. Longe, 6th ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2021, pp. 1466-69. Gale in Context: Science, Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

---. "Eating Disorders." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, edited by Katherine H. Nemeh and Jacqueline L. Longe, 6th ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2021, pp. 1466-69. Gale in Context: Science, Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

"Types of Eating Disorders." Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 2022,

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