Eating disorders are no different from any other addiction.
There are 3 forms of Eating Disorders although people will often bounce from one to the other before getting into recovery:
Anorexics are obsessed with food and will go to extreme lengths to avoid gaining weight. They will often be very controlling in the kitchen and may refuse to eat in front of others. They starve themselves based on an extreme fear of looking fat and this is frequently linked to severe Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). The dangers of losing excessive weight include osteoporosis, infertility in women due to irregular or non-existent menstrual cycles, gastrointestinal disorders, as well as heart, kidney or multiple organ failure and, in extreme cases, estimated to be between 5%-20%, death.
Unlike Anorexia, Bulimia is more difficult to recognize. The Bulimic may not be abnormally thin but their obsession with food is all-encompassing. They will binge eat (often eating large amounts of highly calorific food) and then empty their stomachs by vomiting and/or using laxatives.
Bulimia is extremely dangerous: Repeated vomiting can cause damage to the heart, liver, lungs, oesophagus and teeth. In the case of excessive laxative use, this can destroy bowel function resulting in on-going diarrhoea and rectal bleeding.
The Compulsive Overeater suffers from an addiction to food and, as with any addiction, uses food as a way to 'anaesthetize' their feelings. Simply telling an Overeater to "go on a diet" is like telling an alcoholic to "just stop drinking". The dangers associated with Overeating include high blood pressure and cholesterol, arthritis, bone deterioration, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.
The key to treating any Eating Disorder is to stop the obsession with body image, deal with the unhealthy relationship with food and build self-esteem in the client. Food plans and referrals to Clinical Nutritionists are often an integral part of the treatment.