Eating disorders (EDs) are complex mental illnesses that affect a significant number of children, adolescents, and adults. Individuals with eating disorders typically exhibit behaviors and attitudes that indicate that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are of primary concern.  This may include a disturbance in body image, rituals and restriction of food, discomfort with eating around others, binging, purging, withdrawal, and isolation.  Physical signs may involve noticeable fluctuations in weight, weakness, abnormal laboratory findings, impaired immune function and electrolyte imbalance.

EDs are serious, potentially life threatening illnesses that can effect nearly every bodily organ system, and often result in significant impairment of physical health and psychological functioning.  The most widely recognized EDs are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, and they often occur with other mental health conditions.  EDs do not discriminate among those they affect.  They arise from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and social factors, and a wide range of diverse, multicultural children, adolescents, and adults suffer from them.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides the following survey for individuals ages 13 and up, which can be helpful in determining if it is time to seek professional help.  Early intervention is key in the treatment of EDs due to the potential for dangerous physical and psychological manifestations, the impact of nutritional deprivation and starvation on the developing brain, and an increased likelihood of full recovery prior to the condition becoming chronic.

Treatment for EDs includes combination of psychotherapy, medical, and nutritional interventions, and it is important to have a treatment team comprised of a psychotherapist, doctor, and nutritional counselor with expertise in EDs.  Depending on medical and psychological stability, treatment may include various forms of hospitalization, in-patient treatment in an eating disorder treatment facility, and outpatient psychotherapy. If you think you may have an eating disorder, a good first step is to schedule a session with a psychotherapist who can help you understand what you are experiencing and advise you on the appropriate next steps.

Additional information can be found at:

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
NEDA Confidential Hotline (800) 931-2237
Eating Disorders Recovery Today
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Local EDs treatment centers include (but are not limited to) the following:

The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders Ridgewood (adolescent girls and adult women)
Eating Disorders Treatment Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset (ages 14 and up)
Princeton Center for Eating Disorders (adults, adolescents, children ages 8 and up)
Atlantic Health System Pediatric Eating Disorders (children and adolescents)