Eating disorders are defined as a severe and uncontrollable reduction in a person’s food intake, or the inability to stop eating when they are full. Unlike common misconceptions which state that unhealthy eating habits are simply a result of poor willpower, research has proven that it is an illness which is caused by a mental disorder.

Eating and Mental Disorders

Types of Eating Disorders 

There are two main types of eating disorders, and it is more common in women than men. Anorexia nervosa is one type of disorder and is thought to affect up to 3.7 percent of women in their lifetimes. The other type of eating problem is bulimia nervosa, and it is estimated that 4.2 percent of all women experience problems with it at some point in their lives. What is more disturbing to mental health professionals is that almost half of those suffering from anorexia also experience problems with bulimia.

Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder 

Anorexia is described as a condition where a person believes that they are overweight, despite the fact that they are dangerously skinny. Categorized by extreme weight loss, some of the most common signs of the disorder include,

* Irregularly eating tiny portions of food.

* Excessive exercising, especially after eating.

* Hair loss and extremely pale, dry skin.

* Becomes withdrawn and irritable.

See Also: 10 Other Signs Besides The Scale Saying You Need to Lose Weight

Someone suffering from anorexia will also obsess over their weight. Bulimia suffers tend to be “binge” eaters where they will eat a large amount of food, usually in private. Afterwards they will attempt to purge all of the food from their bodies to avoid gaining any weight. Some of the signs that might indicate someone is suffering from this problem include,

* Eating a large amount of high calorie and sugary foods in one setting.

* An abundance of laxatives, water pills, and other weight loss products in their medicine cabinet.

* Overindulging in alcohol consumption or the use of illicit drugs, often to avoid feeling hungry.

* Frequently making poor or rash decisions especially concerning money, sexual activities, and even have problems with commitment.

Causes of Eating Disorders 

Eating disorders are not caused by poor judgment or lack of willpower, but are instead a type of mental illness. Certain mental disorders can both cause and be a result of an eating problem, and can include depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive behavioral issues. Other mental disorders that can lead to problems with eating are lower levels of serotonin in the brain, and genetics also plays a role in some cases. Low self-esteem and sexual abuse can also cause both an eating and mental disorder if left untreated. Eating disorders can be treated, along with the mental health issues. A treatment plan can be devised that also gives the suffer plenty of much needed support from friends and family.

Eating Disorders and Vegetarians 

Some researchers have suggested that vegans and vegetarians are more likely to develop eating and mental disorders, which may be confusing. While it is not uncommon for people looking to lose weight try to avoid high fat and calorie foods, it is not the only reason they abstain from eating red meat. With a vegetarian diet that is high in dark leafy greens, nuts, along with fruits and vegetables most people can continue to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. The main cause of depression and other mental disorders from a vegetarian diet is the lack of B12 vitamins in the foods that they eat. Now that all natural supplements are widely available, there is no reason that you cannot continue to eat a meat free diet and still be perfectly mentally and physically healthy.


Research has shown that eating disorders and mental health are linked, and both problems must be treated. Whether the eating disorder is a result of a mental health issue or is causing one, health care professional must devise a treatment plan that deals with both problems. What is important to remember is that while some people are vegetarians in an effort to avoid gaining weight, if it is done responsibly it can still be a healthy lifestyle choice.

About the Author

Kelly Everson is MA in English Literature and an American Author. Her work comprises of articles appearing or forthcoming in over a dozen websites covering Beauty Skin Care, Weight Loss, Diet and overall Men’s & Women’s health. When she’s not educating strangers with her writing, she’s most likely researching about new discoveries in Health, Fitness and Beauty industry. You can see more of her work at Consumer Health Digest. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Sign up to our newsletter!