An eating disorder is an illness characterized by severe disturbances in eating behaviors and in the related thoughts and emotions that accompany them. People suffering from an eating disorder typically are preoccupied with food and body weight. One of the best known cases of a high-profile person with an eating disorder is Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters, a popular singing duo in the 1970s. Carpenter died in 1983, at age 32, of heart failure brought on by a long battle with anorexia.
"It's important to know that eating disorders mean much more than what people often think of as an eating disorder," said Amanda Johnson, PhD, Clinical Director of Capstone Behavioral Health Care. "There is a wide variety of eating disorders, all of which can include different behaviors."
According to Johnson, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where the person severely restricts eating. With bulimia, the person binge eats and then purges it. Pica refers to craving and/or eating non-food items like dirt or wood. Some people utilize avoidant or restrictive eating; they may eat only foods of a certain color or texture. Emotional eating involves eating when a person isn't hungry; this is usually the result of an emotional experience.
"Men and women who struggle with eating disorders typically have difficulties with body image," added Johnson. "If left untreated, eating disorders can potentially be fatal. The best treatments involve a team approach between medical and mental health professionals."
Depending on the severity of the disorder and the resources available, many patients rely on both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. "One promising new treatment is the use of mindful eating, or mindfulness in the treatment of eating disorders," explained Johnson. "If someone suspects they may be suffering from an eating disorder, they should either discuss it with their primary care doctor or with a mental health professional."
For more information about eating disorders, please contact:
Capstone Behavioral Health Care
1123 1st Avenue E, Suite 200
Newton, Iowa. 50208