Identify and Treat Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect males and females of all ages, including children, adolescents, and adults. Serious eating disorders may cause long-term physical and emotional damage. This includes an increased risk of sudden death, fainting, electrolyte disturbance, and other medical complications. Early identification and intervention can help.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia is the inability to maintain a normal body weight that is characterized by:

  • Self-starvation.
  • An intense fear of gaining weight, repeated behaviors that interfere with weight gain, dissatisfaction with body size and shape, or failure to recognize the seriousness of low body weight.
  • In some people, repeated episodes of binge eating and purging.

Binge eating

Binge eating is characterized by both:

  • Eating a large amount of food.
  • Feeling a loss of control over eating.


Purging behaviors are intended to control body weight and shape or counteract the effects of binge eating. They include:

  • Self-induced vomiting.
  • Misuse of laxatives, diuretics (water pills), or other medications, such as insulin and diet pills.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia is characterized by:

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating.
  • Repeated inappropriate behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise.
  • Dissatisfaction with body size and shape.
  • Normal body weight or overweight.

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder, or repeated episodes of binge eating, is characterized by:

  • Eating more rapidly than normal.
  • Eating until uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amounts when not physically hungry.
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment about the amount eaten.
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or very guilty after eating.
  • No repeated inappropriate behaviors to prevent weight gain.
  • Normal body weight or overweight.

Signs and Symptoms of a Possible Eating Disorder

Symptoms of an eating disorder include:

  • Rapid or significant weight loss.
  • Abnormal dieting behaviors or eating patterns.
  • Obsessive thoughts about food. (Answering “yes” to the question, “Does food or thoughts of food dominate your life?”)
  • Obsessive thoughts or fears about body shape or weight. (Answering “yes” to the question, “Do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?”)
  • Social withdrawal or loss of interest in friends and usual activities.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Binge eating and/or purging.

Integrated and Comprehensive Eating Disorder Treatment

If you think you may have an eating disorder, look for a treatment that is provided by highly trained medical and psychiatric professionals, is informed by the latest research, and offers multiple levels of care including inpatient and intensive outpatient options.

The UPMC Center for Eating Disorders at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC offers hope for individuals who are struggling with serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorders. We provide care for female and male children, adolescents, and adults with all forms of eating disorders.

For more information, visit our website.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.