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Eating Disorder

Carolina Wellness Psychiatry, PLLC

Psychiatrists serving Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are widespread, particularly among young people, and can have devastating consequences. If you or your child has a problem with food or body image, Elizabeth Bullard, MD, and Allison Foroobar, MD, at Carolina Wellness Psychiatry, PLLC, have extensive experience with the diagnosis and treatment of Eating Disorders. Call the office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, today to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online.

Eating Disorder Q & A

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a mental health condition in which there is a severe disturbance in eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.  Eating disorders are more common in women and generally begin during adolescence or young adulthood.  

Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.  Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice, but rather are serious illnesses that can be fatal. Anorexia nervosa is the leading cause of mental health-related death in the United States. 

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is marked by a distorted perception of body weight and body image and an intense fear of gaining weight. There is a perception of being overweight, even at the point of being severely underweight or emaciated. This inability to see actual appearance can lead to malnutrition and even starvation, and some people become suicidal.

People who have anorexia weigh themselves obsessively and restrict the amount they eat to a degree that they lack essential nutrients. They might exercise to excess as well in an effort to lose more weight, or start using laxatives. 

Physical symptoms of anorexia that may develop over time include:

  • Anemia
  • Muscle wasting or weakness
  • Thinning bones
  • Dry, discolored skin
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Infertility
  • Constant coldness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fine hair growth (lanugo)

Untreated anorexia nervosa can lead to brain and heart damage, and at its extreme, multiple organ failure.

What is bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is marked by binge eating sessions where large quantities of food are eaten over a short period of time.  There is generally a feeling of lack of control during these episodes.

Following the binge eating sessions, there may be compensatory behaviors such as vomiting,  use laxatives and diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise. 

Physical symptoms of bulimia nervosa develop over time and may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Acid reflux
  • Dehydration
  • Tooth decay or tooth sensitivity
  • Digestive problems from laxative abuse
  • Electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to stroke or heart attack


What is binge-eating disorder?

Binge-eating disorder is different from bulimia nervosa, in that episodes of binge-eating are not followed by vomiting, excessive exercise, or fasting.  Binge-eating is the most common eating disorder in the US.

Symptoms include:

  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating unusually large quantities of food in a brief time span
  • Eating alone to avoid embarrassment
  • Feelings of guilt or shame about eating

 How are eating disorders treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in eating disorders, as this population has a higher risk of suicide and medical complications.  

Eating disorders are generally treated with individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy, as well as nutritional counseling and medications.  Severe eating disorders also require medical care and monitoring, and therefore hospitalization may be necessary when medical complications arise.  

Your physician will complete a comprehensive assessment of your symptoms and determine your individualized care plan.

To learn more about treatments for eating disorders, visit Carolina Wellness Psychiatry, PLLC, for compassionate and effective care. Call today to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online.