Effectively Diagnosing and Treating Eating Disorders

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

People with eating disorders struggle to maintain healthy relationships with food and their bodies. That’s a fact, and so too is this: conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), while treatable, can be life threatening if unaddressed.

But what about the notion that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice? That is simply not true. It’s a myth, as is the false belief that only girls and women develop these conditions. Unfortunately, myths such as these create confusion and can even keep people from getting treatment.

So, how can someone concerned about disordered eating—their own or a loved one’s—learn to separate fact from fiction when it comes to understanding when and how to seek help? And what are the options for effective treatment?

Audience Questions

David J. Alperovitz, PsyD, provides an overview of eating disorders, shares tips for recognizing key warning signs, and answers audience questions about how anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and ARFID are diagnosed and treated.

  • By definition, what is an eating disorder?
  • Are appearance and weight concerns always driving factors in eating disorders?
  • Why is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) different from eating disorders in general?
  • What can you tell us about the prevalence of eating disorders?
  • What do we know about the causes of eating disorders?
  • How do pressures from the media, peer pressures, or pressures to look a particular way factor into eating disorders?
  • How treatable are eating disorders?
  • Can eating disorders be deadly?
  • Do you think more people are aware now than in the past about the dangers of eating disorders and the fact that there are treatments for them?
  • What should we know about anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, and what sets them apart from one another?
  • What is avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and is it part of the eating disorder family?
  • What does the term other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED) mean?
  • Can you talk about some of the tools and approaches used to diagnose eating disorders?
  • Can people naturally grow out of an eating disorder?
  • What are the primary treatment approaches for eating disorders?
  • If a person has co-occurring diagnoses, does each diagnoses have to be treated separately?
  • How effective are alternative treatments such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or psychedelics for treating eating disorders?
  • What should we know about the different levels of care for eating disorders?
  • What do you do when someone simply denies that there is a problem, and you are left to watch that person slowly disappear?
  • How can family members educate themselves about eating disorders?
  • What can schools do to best support students showing signs of disordered eating?
  • Can adolescents and young adults be in school and successful in a treatment program, or should they be in a treatment program solely?
  • What are treatments for ARFID? And do you think there’s more awareness of the disorder today?
  • What happens physiologically when eating disorders are untreated?
  • Are there particular personality types or dispositions that are more prone than others to eating disorders?
  • What are some of the genetic components of eating disorders that are being researched?
  • What are some of the common myths and misconceptions regarding eating disorders?
  • Can you share some words of hope for individuals impacted by an eating disorder?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. Alperovitz

David J. Alperovitz, PsyD, has over 25 years of experience working at McLean Hospital, primarily with individuals with OCD, eating disorders, trauma histories, and dissociative symptoms. He joined the staff at McLean’s OCD Institute as a behavioral therapist in 2018 and is currently the program director of McLean’s Klarman Eating Disorders Center.

Dr. Alperovitz is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has maintained a private practice treating adolescents and adults for close to 20 years.

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Originally aired on November 30, 2023