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McLean Hospital is at the forefront of eating disorder care, research, and education. We are committed to helping individuals through the mental and physical challenges on the pathway to recovery.
The term eating disorders refers to a variety of disorders including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. The common feature of all eating disorders is abnormal eating behaviors. Eating disorders are serious mental health problems and can be life-threatening due to significant medical complications. Treatment for eating disorders may include a combination of individual therapy, family therapy, behavior modification, medication, and nutritional rehabilitation.
A person with anorexia starves himself or herself to be thin, experiencing extreme weight loss. Bulimia is binge eating followed by purging (vomiting). Binge eating disorder is characterized by frequent episodes of out of control eating. A cycle develops due to feelings of shame and disgust caused by obesity brought on by the overeating and leading to bingeing again.
Learn more about eating disorders, find treatment at McLean, and get access to informational resources.
Klarman Eating Disorders Center
Founded with the generous support of the Klarman Family Foundation, the program provides state-of-the-art treatment for young women ages 16 to 26. Our residential and partial hospital program specializes in the treatment of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Recognizing that each young woman has a distinct set of issues that contribute to her eating disorder, we also understand that many also struggle with co-occurring mental health problems such as substance abuse, depression, mood and anxiety disorders, as well as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
For more information about the program or to make a referral, please call 877.781.5513.
Eating disorders happen as a result of severe disturbances in eating behavior, such as unhealthy reduction of food intake or extreme overeating. These patterns can be caused by feelings of distress or concern about body shape or weight, and they harm normal body composition and function. A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spirals out of control.
Eating disorders are very complex, and despite scientific research to understand them, the biological, behavioral, and social underpinnings of these illnesses remain elusive. Eating disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but some reports indicate their onset can occur during childhood or later in adulthood. Many adolescents are able to hide these behaviors from their family for months or years. Eating disorders are not due to a failure of will or behavior; rather, they are real, treatable medical illnesses in which certain abnormal patterns of eating take on a life of their own.
Anorexia nervosa, a form of self-starvation, is characterized by a distorted body image that leads to restricted eating and other behavior that prevents a person from gaining weight. The majority of those affected are females (90-95%), although these statistics are changing as males are now more frequently affected. Initially identified in upper- and middle-class families, anorexia is now known to be found in all socioeconomic groups and a variety of ethnic and racial groups.
Bulimia is characterized by uncontrolled episodes of overeating, called bingeing, followed by purging with methods such as vomiting or misuse of laxatives. Bingeing is eating much larger amounts of food than you would normally eat in a short period of time, usually less than 2 hours. The binge-purge cycles can happen from many times a day to several times a week. Bulimia most often affects females and starts during the teenage years, but it can also affect males. Other illnesses, such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders are common in people with bulimia.
Binge eating disorder is an illness that involves overeating in a specific, defined period of time. More food is eaten than others eat in the same amount of time, under the same circumstances. It differs from bulimia as individuals do not purge their bodies of the excess food via vomiting, laxative abuse, or diuretic abuse. Binge eating disorder is found in about 1% to 2% of the general population and is seen more often in women than men.
An estimated .5-3.7% of females struggle with anorexia in their lifetime, while an estimated 1.1-4.2% of females have bulimia in their lifetime. Community surveys have estimated that between 2% and 5% of Americans experience binge eating disorder in a six-month period.
You may find the following organizations useful for more information on eating disorders:
Looking for information on another mental health condition? Visit one of these pages to find out more.