How can you tell if you or someone you know has an eating disorder? Over five million American men and women of all ages, race and income levels have eating disorders. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where a person binges, or eats a large amount of food all at once and then purges, or forces themselves to vomit, takes laxatives, or diuretics (water pills). Starving yourself by eating very little or nothing at all is another eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. People who have this condition can have a strong fear of body fat and weight gain. Binge eating disorder happens when a person cannot control her or his desire to overeat and often keeps the extreme eating a secret. Unlike bulimia, with binge eating disorder, a person does not purge her or his food. Extreme exercise to control weight is now being looked at by experts as another type of eating disorder.

Women make up more than ninety percent of people with eating disorders. Women may be more at risk for eating disorders because of a desire to have the "ideal" figure often shown in the popular media (TV, magazines, movies). As women, we need to like ourselves the way we are. While the exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, personality, genetics, environment and body chemistry may play a role in developing one. An eating disorder is a severe illness that requires help from a health care provider, the sooner the better.

Support someone you know or think has an eating disorder. Do not focus on how your friend looks - this may add to a negative body image. Also do not demand the person eat or not eat. Let the person know that you care, you are there to help, and try to get her or him to seek help. Most eating disorders need professional treatment for a person to recover. The National Women's Health Information Center has provided the following resources to help you or someone you know identify eating disorders and get help quickly.

Publications
Binge Eating Disorder
People with binge eating disorder (BED) frequently eat large amounts of food while feeling a loss of control over their eating. This fact sheet describes the symptoms, causes, complications, and treatment of BED, along with a profile of those at risk for the disorder.

Eating Disorders
This fact sheet explains eating disorders that affect women, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and disordered eating. It discusses the health complications that can arise from thease disorders. While there is no exact cause for eating disorders, this fact sheet examines many characteristics that are thought to contribute to the development of these dangerous disorders.

Eating Disorders: Facts About Eating Disorders and the Search for Solutions
This publication contains information about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating, and treatment strategies for these eating disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions - Anorexia Nervosa
This fact sheet contains information on anorexia nervosa. It discusses possible causes of this disorder and the serious health problems that can result from it. Ther is information on treatment options for anorexics, a list of the signs that someone have this disorder, and tips for how friends and family can help.

Frequently Asked Questions - Binge Eating Disorder
This fact sheet contains information on binge eating disorder what causes it and how it can be treated.

Frequently Asked Questions - Bulimia Nervosa
This fact sheet answers common questions about bulimia nervosa. It explains this eating disorder and may be likely to suffer from it. It lists some of the warning signs of bulimia, its medical consequences, and some options for treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions - Eating Disorders
This publication contains information on eating disorders, who is at risk, causes, the effects they have on a person's health, how to tell if someone has an eating disorder, and treatment methods.

Resources About Eating Disorders for Consumers
Bibliography of resources on eating disorders for consumers

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
This Internet site can help you locate a substance abuse treatment facility in your area.

Eating Disorders: Psychotherapy's Role in Effective Treatment
This publication contains information on eating disorders, who can suffer from them, what causes them, and the types of treatment that can help.

Organizations
Academy for Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.

National Eating Disorders Association

Overeaters Anonymous