ELEVEN MILLION people in the U.S. have an eating disorder, and you may never suspect it by their physical appearance. Here are the major types of eating disorders, and symptoms and behaviors to look for.

Anorexia nervosa is an intense fear of getting fat, even if underweight. People with this disorder may frequently complain of being cold, suddenly become vegetarian, eat only certain foods, insist on preparing their own food or avoid eating altogether. Due to malnutrition induced chemical disturbances, they may develop fine facial and body hair, suddenly behave differently, have difficulty making decisions and think irrationally. Often they are hospitalized due to dehydration, malnutrition or heart and kidney problems. Anorexia has a mortality rate of 20 percent, the highest of any mental-health condition.

Bulimia nervosa causes recurrent episodes of binge eating, zoning out on food, eating secretly and then getting rid of the food. People who are bulimic may vomit, causing swollen glands at the jaw and cheeks; misuse medications such as laxatives and diuretics; fast; or exercise excessively. They may feel full after even a small meal, with an urge to get rid of the food. Bulimia is a potentially serious condition that disrupts the body’s chemistries, harms the digestive tract, erodes tooth enamel and creates the risk of potentially fatal heart irregularities.

Binge eating means consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time until the eater feels uncomfortably full. Binge eaters may feel that they cannot control what or how much they eat once they start and later feel disgusted with themselves, depressed or guilty. They often eat alone, embarrassed by how much or what they eat.

Compulsive overeating means eating when one is not physically hungry. Some compulsive overeaters eat when upset or stressed to get through the day. They may
“graze” throughout the day as they work. They constantly think about what to eat or
not eat, and about their weight. Eating disorders do not go away untreated. It is a good idea to start with intense treatment with experienced eating disorder professionals. This will help the person manage the underlying reasons for the eating disorder and create a foundation for lasting recovery.

Rebecca Cooper is a certified eating disorder specialist, author and the founder of Rebecca’s House Eating Disorders Treatment Program™ (www.Rebeccashouse.org).

Author's Bio: 

Rebecca Cooper is a California licensed therapist, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and the Founder of Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs™. She created the first “transitional living residence” for clients recovering from eating disorders.

She is the author of Diets Don’t Work®, the Diets Don’t Work® Structured Program Workbook, instructional DVDs, and Guided Imagery CDs. This program is used throughout the country at addiction treatment centers and is used by therapists dealing with clients who are struggling with eating disorders.

Ms. Cooper is the eating disorder expert for Addicted.com and SelfGrowth.com. Rebecca also appears on television, webcasts, and radio to promote disordered eating awareness.

Ms. Cooper received her Master in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. She is an international speaker who has contributed numerous published articles to the field of Addictions and Eating Disorders.

In October 2004, Rebecca was honored as the Rising Star in Business by WomanSage©, an event sponsored by the University of California Irvine Medical Center. The award was in recognition to her innovative approach to helping women with eating disorders and her dedicated service of helping others recover. In May of 2009, she was nominated for the Orange County Business Journal's Women in Business Award.

Rebecca also started a non-profit, Rebecca’s Eating Disorder Foundation, to help fund clients who need eating disorder treatment, but are not able to get insurance benefits or other sources of help.

If you a friend or loved one that needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to www.rebeccashouse.org or call 1.866.931.1666.