Perhaps due to societal pressures, many people have concerns about their bodies that may distort their self- image. These concerns can take many forms, such as thinking that being thin is automatically a sign of being healthy and attractive. Another could be the belief that in order to be attractive one must be very muscular. In reality, this isn’t true – being healthy and attractive does not mean you have to be thin or excessively strong.
When people develop strong concerns about their weight or physical appearance they may develop an eating disorder. As you may have guessed, eating disorders are characterized by an unusual tendency to monitor one’s weight, such as by eating too little or too much. Although more women are diagnosed with eating disorders than men, both women and men are impacted by these conditions. Below are several eating disorders you may have heard of:
- Anorexia Nervosa: Characterized by a fear of gaining weight, constant pursuit of thinness (for example, emaciation), and a distorted body image.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Characterized by a preoccupation of body shape, fear of gaining weight, and a cycle of bingeing (eating a lot of food in a short period) and purging (ridding your bodies of calories through vomiting, misuse of laxatives, or other methods).
- Binge-Eating Disorder: Characterized by frequently and secretively eating large amounts of food during short periods, a lack of control over your eating, and eating until you are uncomfortably full.
Although serious, with help from a mental health professional eating disorders are treatable. Please search our database of licensed psychologists if you have concerns about your eating patterns or the eating patterns of a friend. Remember that many people have concerns about their physical appearance and that asking for help managing these thoughts is a courageous and healthy decision.
For more information about eating disorders, consider these resources:
- National Institute of Mental Health: Different types of eating disorders
- PBS: One Man’s Battle with Anorexia
- National Eating Disorders Association: National eating disorders helpline 1-800-931-2237
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders: Eating Disorder Statistics