Most people know somebody who complains about being fat. Or who always seems to be counting calories. But there’s a big difference between “normal” dieting or weight concerns and eating disorders. Eating disorders are compulsions to eat or avoid eating that are harmful to one’s physical and mental health. They can cause serious and potentially fatal medical problems that affect the heart, brain and other body organs. Eating disorders can occur along with other disorders, most commonly depression, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Men can have these disorders, too, though they are much more common in women.

Eating disorders are unhealthy coping mechanisms that can arise to handle stress and anxieties. They aren’t usually motivated by vanity. People with eating disorders often have low self-esteem or feelings of helplessness. Because eating disorders are compulsive behaviors, it’s difficult for some people to stop even when they want to. The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Click on the links below to learn more and see common symptoms and warning signs.

Anorexia:  People with anorexia lose weight by voluntary starvation, purging, excessive exercise, or other weight control measures.

Bulimia: People with bulimia often binge and purge in secrecy, feeling ashamed when they binge, yet relieved once they purge.

Binge-Eating Disorder:  Binge-eaters also overeat regularly, but they do not purge.

All of these types of eating disorders are treatable and you can recover to live a happy, healthy life. The first step is to tell someone that you’re struggling and to get help.