What nutritional disorder do I have

Eating Disorders - Am I Affected?

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a serious condition. The focus is on the topic of "food". However, this is not a nutritional problem, but dealing with food and the relationship to one's own body are disturbed. Affected people restrict their eating behavior excessively, control it strongly or completely lose control over it. An eating disorder is often preceded by a diet. It is not easy to recognize when conspicuous eating behavior changes into a pathological form. Eating disorders start in the adult phase. Girls and young women are most commonly affected. Boys and men can also get it. Eating disorders can show up in a number of ways:

  • Anorexia (anorexia): Underweight due to severe weight loss; mainly from starvation, but also from vomiting, excessive exercise or medication such as laxatives; constant weighing and counting calories, panic fear of gaining weight; Affected people feel too fat despite being underweight. Often, and especially at the onset of the eating disorder, they fail to understand that their behavior is abnormal.

  • Bulimia (Bulimia nervosa): Eating attacks as the main characteristic: large portions are secretly and hastily devoured; Sufferers cannot control what and how much they eat; guilty feelings arise after the binge eating; In order to get rid of the calories, those affected take countermeasures, for example with vomiting, fasting, diets, medication or excessive exercise.

  • Binge eating without countermeasures (Binge eating disorder): Recurring binge eating: at least once a week for 3 months; disturbed feeling of hunger and satiety; Affected people are often overweight or obese; they suffer from the binge eating and are disgusted with themselves.

These forms can also merge into one another. What they have in common is that they are associated with emotional problems and low self-esteem. Many of those affected unconsciously try to resolve their internal conflicts about eating behavior. The disease usually lasts for several years.

It is characteristic of all eating disorders that changes in behavior are concealed and interests are neglected. Those affected often lack mental and physical strength. They withdraw from family and friends in many cases.

Possible consequences

The disease affects the body and soul. Malnutrition can lead to muscle wasting, brittle bones, hair loss, a missed menstrual period or loss of potency. A malnourished body is also less able to defend itself against infections. Persistent vomiting damages teeth and esophagus. Eating disorders can be fatal, especially anorexia. If you are overweight, you may experience joint pain, high blood pressure or diabetes, for example. Other mental illnesses can accompany an eating disorder, such as depression.


More than every second eating disorder can be treated successfully. The aim of the treatment is to learn and maintain healthy eating behavior over the long term. This is how the weight should normalize and stabilize. It is also important to recognize and treat physical and emotional complaints. In addition, those affected should receive support with social or family problems.

The most important component of treatment is psychotherapy. In one-on-one or group sessions, the sick can discuss mental problems, for example, with therapeutic specialists. They also practice changing their behavior.

In addition, nutritional therapy can be helpful in exercising normal eating habits and in obtaining information about a healthy diet. There are also books or internet programs for self-help. Exercise therapy and relaxation methods can also help.

Medicines are only used in isolated cases to treat binge eating in bulimia and binge eating disorder.

Treatment can take place at home with regular treatment appointments (outpatient) or during the day in a clinic and in the evening at home (day clinic) or in a clinic (stationary) occur. What comes into question depends on your personal situation.

If left untreated, an eating disorder often remains permanent. It is unclear how often it resolves on its own. The longer an eating disorder lasts, the harder it is to treat. But even a successfully treated eating disorder can come back later in life.

Advice and contact points

If you are wondering whether you or your child could be affected, you can contact your family doctor, a practice for pediatric and adolescent medicine or a psychotherapeutic practice. You can also get help in special outpatient clinics or at advice centers for eating disorders.

The Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) can also be a point of contact. Here you can get advice: Telephone 0221 89 20 31 or www.bzga-essstoerungen.de. Family members can also turn to these professionals.

What else should you watch out for?

  • Be aware that treating an eating disorder will take time and that relapses may occur. Follow-up care is therefore important during treatment.

  • It is not a failure if it doesn't work out between you and your treatment team. Do not dare to address that.

  • Share your experiences with others, for example in a guided self-help group.

February 2021, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians