Is Eating Disorder a Mental Illness?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 23, 2018
Quick Bites

  • Eating disorder is a mental illness that causes physical and emotional consequences.
  • The disorder is mainly characterized by a psychological and behavioural disturbance in eating patterns.
  • Learn about the two types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Eating disorder is a mental illness that causes physical and emotional consequences.  When a person feels extremely distressed or concerned about the body weight and shape, he or she tends to either reduce the food intake or start overeating. In both, the cases, the person faces severe disturbances in the eating behaviour causing an eating disorder.   

Even though the medical manuals like International Classification of Disease (ICD-10) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) don’t recognize eating disorders (such as diabulimia, food maintenance syndrome) as a mental illness. But besides the concern for food and weight, eating disorder as a mental illness also cause an emotional and physical disturbance. The disorder is mainly characterized by a psychological and behavioural disturbance in eating patterns that can prove to be threatening to person’s health.  



Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two main types of eating disorders. This basic issue present in Anorexia is that the person tends to believe that he can regain a sense of control by reducing food intake. Here food becomes the central focus of the person for regaining a sense of control and body shape. The patient is surrounded by emotional turmoil regarding the loss of identity, fears around sexuality or maturation. A person with bulimia faces an intense fear of gaining gain he is trapped in a vicious cycle of binge eating and experiments various methods of reducing on consumed calories.

Millions of people are yearly affected by this deadly disorder. Disorder-relapses are common when the psychological causes are not taken care of in the treatment process resulting patient to struggle life-long with the disease. The overall success of the treatment largely depends upon the mental recovery of the patient. For treating an eating disorder and restoring the person to healthy weight requires treating the related psychological issues and eliminating the thoughts and behaviours that lead to disordered eating. Curing the psychological symptoms can go a long way to prevent disorder relapse.

Despite many scientific types of research in the area of eating disorder the biological, behavioural and social underpinnings of this disorder are still elusive.

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