General Information on Eating Disorders

This page provides some basic background on the language, definitions, and prevalence of eating disorders.

These resources discuss some language basics and some common practices in treating people with eating disorders. Advocates may find it useful to become familiar with terminology Family meal imageand other information when working with someone who is struggling with an eating disorder.

Types of Eating Disorders


Treatment and Recovery


Types of Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders (14 p.) by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH, through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published this booklet to provide basic information on understanding eating disorders, how they are treated, and what is being done to address them.
What is an eating disorder? (1 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2005). Covering major forms of eating disorders, such as: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating, this resource describes key symptoms and stressors associated with eating disorders.
Anorexia Nervosa (2 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2005). This fact sheet discusses the primary symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa, shares common warning signs, and lists possible health consequences. They emphasize that early intervention and treatment increases chances for recovery.
Binge Eating Disorder (1 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2005). Binge Eating Disorder (BED) affects approximately 1-5% of the general population. Primary symptoms, warning signs and consequences are discussed in this fact sheet.
Bulimia Nervosa (2 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2005). Characterized by cycles of binge eating accompanied by purging behaviors, this eating disorder affects predominantly female adults and adolescents. Symptoms, warning signs, and health consequences are discussed in this brief fact sheet.
EDA Talks about EDNOS (2 p.) by Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA). A brochure discussing the diagnosis of ED-NOS, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified, provides information on this type of eating disorder.
Excessive Exercise (3 p.) by Theodore E. Weltzin. Individuals who engage in excessive exercise and experience extreme anxiety if they are unable to participate in exercise activities are discussed. This form of eating disorder can develop out of athletic pressures, or in an effort to control weight and food intake.
What we know: prevalence and characteristics
Course and Outcomes of Eating Disorders (webpage) by Academy for Eating Disorders. This brief information page discusses the course that eating disorders commonly take. It provides statistics from research showing that on average half of people diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia nervosa recover completely. A significant number of people show improvement, but some live with the disorder long term.
Eating Disorders Glossary (online resource) by F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders). This resource is a glossary of over 400 terms related to eating disorders, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery that may be useful for advocates, families, significant others, and allies seeking to learn more about the topic.
Facts about eating disorders: What Research Shows (3 p.) by Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) (2009). EDC provides a fact sheet discussing prevalence, risk factors, consequences, and treatment for eating disorders. The resource emphasizes genetic predisposition to disordered eating and the importance of friend, family, and other bystander involvement.
Making Sense of ED Mortality Statistics (1 p.) by Kathy Chen. This article discusses some of the challenges in interpreting mortality statistics, rates of death caused by eating disorders. Chen defines various terms used in research.
NEDA Toolkits (online resources) by the National Eating Disorders Foundation. These toolkits for educators, parents, and coaches provide information tailored to these populations on eating disorder recognition and prevention. 

Treatment of Eating Disorders (1 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2004). This factsheet provides a brief overview of the multidisciplinary approach to treating and eating disorder.

Treatments Available for Eating Disorders (6 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2008). This document examines the various types of psychological therapy and medication typically used to treat eating disorders. It includes the names of commonly used medications, a listing of psychotherapeutic treatments, and definitions of each treatment approach.
Treatment Settings and Levels of Care (1 p.) by National Eating Disorders Association (2008). This provides an overview of how settings for treatment (inpatient vs. outpatient) and the levels of intervention are determined.
What’s going on with me? (1 p.) by National Eating Disorders Foundation (2005). This tool may help in evaluating personal eating and exercise habits to determine possible disordered eating. It may be helpful in providing information to young adults or other people who show signs of eating disorders in counseling or advocacy settings. 

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View additional resources:

Exploring the Links: Eating Disorders & Sexual Violence

Understanding Oppression: Eating Disorders & Sexual Violence

Prevention of Eating Disorders & Sexual Violence