Eating disorders are complex behavioral conditions marked by the presence of severe and enduring disruptions in eating behaviors, often accompanied by distressing thoughts and emotions. These conditions can have profound implications, impacting an individual’s physical, psychological, and social well-being. The spectrum of eating disorders encompasses a range of specific diagnoses, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorders, as well as pica and rumination disorder.
Collectively, eating disorders affect a substantial portion of the population, with prevalence rates reaching up to 5%. They typically manifest during adolescence and young adulthood, although they can arise at any stage of life and affect individuals of any gender. While some eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are more frequently reported in women, they do not discriminate by age or gender. These disorders are often associated with preoccupations related to food, body weight, or body shape, coupled with heightened anxiety about eating or the consequences of consuming specific foods. Behaviors linked to eating disorders include restrictive eating, avoidance of particular foods, binge eating, purging through methods like vomiting or laxative misuse, and compulsive exercise. These behaviors can become all-consuming, bearing similarities to addiction-like patterns.