What follows is a list of common traits and characteristics among all forms of eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and related addictive relationships with food and weight. As alcoholism and drug dependency share more common ground than differences, so too do the different "flavors" of eating disorders.

Consider the following...

- The majority of people with an ED meet the established criteria for [addiction] dependency per the same criteria typically reserved for substance dependencies* [See A.S.A.M. Criteria for Dependency at http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/self-diagnosis-do-i-have-an-eating-disorder]
- ED behaviors are initiated in an attempt to avoid or change uncomfortable feelings - usually negative feelings and emotional states.
- Most eating disorders typically are associated with a mood disorder that often predates the beginning of the eating disorder.
- Regardless of ED type, at least half the people coming to treatment for an ED also have abused alcohol, drugs, or relied on additional forms of self-medication.
- Having an ED makes someone vulnerable to “switching addictions” throughout the life cycle of their ED.
- Independent of the form of ED, control issues are a central theme needing to be addressed – first with food and weight, and later with other areas of daily living such as relationships.
- With the exception of some subtypes of anorexia, most people suffering with an eating disorder react to certain foods [e.g. sugar derivatives, refined flours, highly processed junk foods, etc.] differently than their non-eating disordered peers. *see D2 receptors and eating disorders
- Both psychological and physiological factors are inherent among all forms of eating disorders. Physical dependency and psychological dependency interact to create an addictive relationship with food, body weight, and/or dieting.
- Long-term recovery from an eating disorder requires significantly more than a temporary change in someone’s body mass index [BMI / weight / appearance] and eating pattern.
- Recovery often requires the on going participation in a support group or a continuing care plan after formal treatment ends.
- Appropriate [non-habit forming] medication[s] usually is needed to treat co-occurring depression or a similar issue accompanying an eating disorder. In many instances, the mood disorder is a “stand alone” diagnosis that exists with or without the ED.
- Most people with an eating disorder have some level of impairment with an ability to differentiate between hunger [physical needs] and appetite [psychologically driven]. – Internal versus External Cues of hunger
- As with other addictions, remission is a more realistic expectation with treatment outcome rather than “cure.” In effect, addiction is a life-long disease that can be arrested by remaining engaged in consistent recovery related activities. Remission can be life-long or short term.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Lerner is the founder and executive director of the Milestones in Recovery Eating Disorders Program [http://www.MilestonesProgram.Org] located in Cooper City, Florida. A graduate of Nova Southeastern University, Dr. Lerner is a licensed and board certified clinical psychologist who has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders since 1980. He has appeared on numerous national television and radio programs that include The NPR Report, 20/20, Discovery Health, and ABC’s Nightline as well authored several publications related to eating disorders in the professional literature, national magazines, and newspapers including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Miami Herald, Orlando and Hollywood Sun Sentinels. An active member of the professional community here in South Florida since finishing his training, Dr. Lerner makes his home in Davie with his wife Michele and daughters Janelle and Danielle and their dog, Reggie.

Professional Memberships:

- American Psychological Association [APA]
- Florida Psychological Association [FPA]
- National Eating Disorders Association [NEDA]
- National Association for Anorexia and Associated Disorders [ANAD]
- Binge Eating Disorders Association [BEDA]
- National Association for Anorexia and Bulimia [ABA]
- Florida Medical Professional Group [FMPG]
- National Association of Cognitive Therapists
- International Association of Eating Disorder Therapists [IADEP]

Prior and Current Affiliations:

- Founder and director of Pathways Eating Disorders Program [1987-1994]
- Clinical Director, Eating Disorders Unit at Glenbeigh Hospital, Miami, Fla.
- Clinical Director, Eating Disorders Unit at Humana Hospital Biscayne, Miami, Fla. [1982-1987]
- Founder and CEO, Milestones In Recovery’s Eating Disorders Program, Cooper City, Fla. [1999- current]
- Florida Physicians Resource Network [2005-current]