What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an illness of obsessive self-starvation characterized by: refusal to maintain a minimally normal weight; intense fear of weight gain or being "fat," even when underweight; and distorted perception of the body or denial of the seriousness of the effects of extreme weight loss. 

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an illness of repetitive binge eating, in which a person feels a loss of control of normal eating, consumes extreme amounts of food, and then attempts to counteract the effects of doing so by inducing vomiting; taking large amounts of diet pills, laxatives or diuretics; exercising in an extreme manner; or fasting for extended periods.

Important Facts About Eating Disorders


Challenges to Recovery

Anorexia nervosa can be a potentially chronic illness.  Recovery can be slow,  If treatment is delayed, not only do the symptoms intensify, but underlying psychological troubles that drive the illness become even more entrenched and difficult to overcome.  This is why treatment should begin as early as possible.

Bulimia nervosa, too, can become more challenging to address over time as the repeated cycles of binge eating and purging become increasingly automatic and habit forming. 

The Influence of Media and Fashion

Although any number of outside influences can affect the development of eating disorders, they are not sole causative factors; eating disorders are complex illnesses in which emotional sensitivities and other susceptibilities play a decisive role.  While the media can impact self-esteem and self-image, media influences are not a direct cause of eating disorders.   

Adapted for Footprints of Serenity by UCLA Medical