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Eating disorders are complex because they don’t just impact the body, but also the mind and spirit. They are not easy to detect in the early stages either. Learning the different types of eating disorders, signs, and symptoms can help with seeking treatment.

Eating disorders are treatable. There is hope.

How many people have eating disorders?

Here are some quick stats:

  • 9% of the U.S. population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime
  • Eating disorders have the 2nd highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness behind opiate addiction
  • People from minority backgrounds have eating disorders at similar rates as their white peers, but they are about half as likely to be diagnosed

Are there different types of eating disorders?

Yes, however all involve more than just food and are based on feelings of intense emotions or ways of coping with life and/or trauma. The following are common types with their typical features:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Typically avoid or severely restrict food. There may be an intense fear of weight gain. People with anorexia may lose more weight than is considered healthy.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia involves a cycle of binge eating followed by actions like vomiting or over-exercising to compensate, all while battling feelings of guilt and shame.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED): BED is like a storm of uncontrollable eating, where people consume large amounts of food in a short time, struggling to regain control. People often experience negative emotions about these episodes. 

Sometimes, eating disorders don't fit neatly into categories, but they're still significant, and can impact lives in profound ways. 
Eating disorders should be treated by medical professionals experienced in these types of disorders.

What are signs that someone is struggling with an eating disorder?2

Signs of eating disorders aren’t always easy to spot, and they can happen to anyone at any age or size. That’s why it’s important to understand the different and complex changes that come along with disordered eating. 

Changes in behavior:

  • Extreme changes in eating preferences
  • Evidence of binge eating or avoiding meals
  • Going to the bathroom immediately before or after eating
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Lying about amount or type of food consumed
  • Changing how food is eaten, like eating very slowly or quickly

Changes in physical appearance: 

  • Changes in weight 
  • New sensitivity to cold
  • Swelling around the cheeks or jaw
  • Hair loss, weakness, or dizziness
  • Calluses or cuts on knuckles, hands, or fingers

Changes in how they think or feel about their body or appearance: 

  • Distorted body image or dissatisfaction with appearance 
  • Preoccupation with food and body
  • Depression, anxiety, or irritability
  • Heightened anxiety around mealtimes

What causes eating disorders?3

Eating disorders can develop at any age and affect all genders, races, and ethnicities. There is no one thing or person that causes an eating disorder, and no one is to blame for developing one. 

It’s a myth that eating disorders mostly affect girls and women. Boys and men are equally at risk. It’s unique for every person, and there are many possible causes of eating disorders. 

  • Family history of eating disorders, addiction, or other mental health issues
  • A history of trauma (physical, emotional, or sexual)
  • Personal history of anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • History of dieting
  • Diabetes (up to one-fourth of women with Type 1 diabetes develop an eating disorder)
  • Involvement in activities that focus on a slender appearance (like modeling, gymnastics, wrestling, etc.)
  • Major life changes
  • Perfectionistic tendencies

How are eating disorders treated?

Every person’s recovery is different and may include inpatient, outpatient, or both settings. Some people can recover without structured supports or treatment. Others need more support. It’s important to talk with a trained medical professional who can help guide recovery, including: 


  • Therapists, like counselors, social workers, and psychologists. 
  • Psychiatrists who can give medical and psychiatric evaluations and write prescriptions. 
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants are qualified to treat certain medical conditions without the direct supervision of a doctor. They can also prescribe medication. 
  • Medical doctors are licensed to practice medicine and can include pediatricians, adolescent medicine specialists, internal medicine specialists, or family doctors. 
  • Dietitians/Nutritionists may plan food and nutrition programs and promote positive eating habits to prevent and treat illness.

How do I support a loved one with an eating disorder?

Support from loved ones is a critical part of recovery. Here are ways you can help: 

  • Show personal support
  • Don’t describe foods as “good” or “bad”
  • Don’t urge them to eat or not to eat 
  • Listen to feelings
  • Do not be controlled by their behavior 
  • Remember the big picture
  • Avoid guilt and self-blame
  • Consider personal and family counseling 

What resources are available to Florida Blue members?

Teladoc:* Included with many Florida Blue health plans, Teladoc uses online and digital health tools for online talk therapy or psychiatric care. Online providers may have availability 7 days a week and during non-traditional business hours to meet your needs and schedule. 
Lucet:** Call our mental health care partner at 1-866-287-9569 to find doctors or talk to someone virtually. 
Many Florida Blue health plans offer both in-person and virtual visits with network providers. Members can log in to their member account on and select Find and Get Care to find a mental health professional who offers virtual visits. 

*Teladoc is an independent company contracted by Florida Blue to provide physician visits via phone or online video to members with non-emergent medical issues. Teladoc is only available in the U.S. Teladoc® is a trademark of Teladoc, Inc.

**Florida Blue contracts with Lucet to provide behavioral health services.

1National Eating Disorders Association. Statistics

2National Eating Disorders Association. Warning Signs and Symptoms

3Cleveland Clinic. Eating Disorders.


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