Eating disorders: Get Help

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jeremy Pallas
  • 82nd Medical Operations Squadron
The New Year motivates many to establish personal goals regarding their overall physical and psychological health. However, for those who suffer with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, the New Year may be a trigger that challenges the nature of these complicated illnesses.

Eating disorders are often characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior or extreme distress or obsessions with body weight or shape.

Anorexia often features an unwillingness to maintain normal body weight, with behaviors related to starvation, extreme weight loss through dieting, fasting and excessive exercise and purging.

Bulimia may be characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating, followed by inappropriate compensatory methods such as vomiting, misuse of laxatives and excessive exercise intended to prevent any weight gain. Those with bulimia may fall within their normal range for age and weight.

Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia, but after the binging episode, no purging behavior follows, thus causing such individuals to become overweight or obese.

Eating disorders require professional medical treatment. Consequently, it is important to know these common signs and symptoms so that you or someone you know may find appropriate help.

Eating disorders are complex medical and psychiatric conditions impacting more than 10 million individuals in the United States. To put that number in perspective, the state population of Michigan is just under 10 million people. The estimated prevalence for the U.S. is about one percent for anorexia nervosa and about one to three percent for bulimia nervosa.

Other less-known eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, have a reported incident rate of three to 30 percent of the general population.

Between 1998 and 2006, 0.3 percent of all service members were diagnosed with an eating disorder. One frequent misconception is that eating disorders only impact females. Although fewer eating disorders occur among males, the prevalence of eating disorders among males is on the rise.
Eating disorders are often associated with other behavioral health conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior and substance abuse. Often the symptoms involve distorted thinking related to maintaining control regarding food consumption and weight. Such thinking becomes automatic and requires more than just will-power to overcome.

Recovery from eating disorders does and can occur. The treatment requires personalized collaborative medical and psychological interventions to address the full spectrum of symptoms and causes.

If you have concerns about eating disorders, talk with your doctor or contact your mental health clinic. For more information online, you may also visit or