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Eating Disorders: About More Than Food

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Eating Disorders: About More Than Food

February 20th - 27th is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Campbell County Health wants to inform, educate, and provide resources to the community regarding eating disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health provides guidance on how to understand mental illness and take action.


What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are serious, biologically influenced medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to one’s eating behaviors. Although many people may be concerned about their health, weight, or appearance from time to time, some people become fixated or obsessed with weight loss, body weight or shape, and controlling their food intake. These may be signs of an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are not a choice. These disorders can affect a person’s physical and mental health. In some cases, they can be life-threatening. With treatment, however, people can recover completely from eating disorders.

Who is at risk for eating disorders?

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders. Although eating disorders often appear during the teen years or young adulthood, they may also develop during childhood or later in life (40 years and older).

Remember: People with eating disorders may appear healthy, yet be extremely ill.

The exact cause of eating disorders is not fully understood, but research suggests a combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors can raise a person’s risk.


What are the common types of eating disorders?

Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. Each of these disorders is associated with different but sometimes overlapping symptoms. People exhibiting any combination of these symptoms may have an eating disorder and should be evaluated by a health care provider.

Sign of an eating disorder:

  • Extremely restricted eating and/or intensive and excessive exercise

  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)

  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight

  • Intense fear of gaining weight

  • Distorted body or self-image that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat (from vomiting)

  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area

  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth from exposure to stomach acid when vomiting

  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems

  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse

  • Severe dehydration from purging

  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals), which can lead to stroke or heart attack

How are eating disorders treated?

Eating disorders can be treated successfully. Early detection and treatment are important for a full recovery. People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and medical complications.

A person’s family can play a crucial role in treatment. Family members can encourage the person with eating or body image issues to seek help. They also can provide support during treatment and can be a great ally to both the individual and the health care provider. Research suggests that incorporating the family into treatment for eating disorders can improve treatment outcomes, particularly for adolescents.

Treatment plans for eating disorders include psychotherapy, medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, medications, or a combination of these approaches. Typical treatment goals include:

  • Restoring adequate nutrition

  • Bringing weight to a healthy level

  • Reducing excessive exercise

  • Stopping binge-purge and binge-eating behaviors

People with eating disorders also may have other mental disorders (such as depression or anxiety) or problems with substance use. It’s critical to treat any co-occurring conditions as part of the treatment plan.

Campbell County Health Behavioral Health Services offers treatment for mental illnesses, including eating disorders. We are a resource and a safe space for you to seek treatment and help. If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please reach out to the CCH 24/7 crisis line at 307.688.5555 or call/ text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.


  • Category: Behavioral Health Services, Campbell County Medical Group Family Medicine, Campbell County Medical Group Walk-In Clinic & Occupational Health, Campbell County Medical Group Wright Clinic & Occupational Health, CCH News, CCMG News, CCMH News