Eating disorders are disabling and costly mental health disorders that significantly impair both physical and psychosocial functioning in adults and children. Eating disorders are defined by a persistent disturbance of eating that impairs health or psychosocial functioning (American Psychological Association [APA], 2013).
There are six specific disorders identified (APA, 2013):
- Anorexia nervosa
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
- Binge eating disorder
- Bulimia nervosa
- Rumination disorder
Diagnoses are based upon the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which divides eating disorders into mutually exclusive categories that are based upon observed symptoms (APA, 2013). “As eating disorders are under-researched, there is a great deal of uncertainty as to their pathophysiology, treatment and management” within both the medical and mental health care communities (Treasure et al., 2020, p. 899).
Attitudes towards weight, body shape, and eating within American culture greatly impacts the obsession with weight, weight loss, and dieting. The incidence of eating disorders has increased over the last 50 years (Treasure et al., 2020). The weight loss industry is 3.8 billion dollars in the United States, targeting people of all races, ages, and income levels. Magazines and popular television shows display thin models who are air brushed to unattainable perfectionism. Athletes pursue a lean body mass to improve performance and young adolescents, strongly influenced by social media platforms, emulate peers, and role models through food manipulation. People at high risk for eating disorders include those with a history of trauma, transgender individuals, athletes, females, young adults, and patients who present anxiety and depressive disorders, rigidity and perfectionism, or symptoms of rapid weight loss, bradycardia, amenorrhea, or a preoccupation with eating and appearance (National Institute of Health [NIH], 2023; Yager, Roy-Byrne & Solomon, 2022).