Eating disorders are a serious and persistent disturbance of eating and eating behaviors. According to The National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD), an estimated 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. It spares no gender, age, SES, religion or race.
Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate among any mental illness (National Institute of Mental Health). Although the basis of an eating disorder is usually not about food, it manifests as a person’s life feels consumed by behaviors such as calorie counting, monitoring numbers on a scale, body checking, excessive exercise, or planning the next binge/purge episode. Dropping out from important areas of life and becoming isolated from loved ones, may feel reminiscent to an addiction or a toxic relationship, but for many this is also a descriptor of what it may feel like to struggle with an eating disorder.
Due to the complex nature of eating disorders, there is no one defined factor for the development of this illness. Some contributors include Biological factors (i.e. genetics), Social factors (i.e. society pressures), Psychological factors (i.e. anxiety, depression, OCD), and Interpersonal factors (i.e. history of abuse, bullying). Although symptoms manifest in relation to food, usually the disorder stems as a maladaptive way to manage thoughts and emotions that are perceived as uncomfortable or distressing to the individual.