Psychiatry

Eating and Weight Disorders FAQs

In addition to referring to the following frequently asked questions (FAQs), you can contact us to have your questions about eating and weight disorders answered. 

What causes an eating disorder?

No one factor can be said to cause an eating disorder; these types of conditions typically result from a complicated combination of social, cultural, biological, and psychological aspects. 

What should I do if I think I may have an eating disorder?

If you are noticing that you have issues about your body image and your relationship to food, you have many good options for getting help. Seek the advice of your doctor or a psychotherapist. Contact a member of our Mount Sinai Eating and Weight Disorders Program team.

How should I prepare for my first appointment?

In accordance with the guidelines of the Academy for Eating Disorders, we recommend that you get a comprehensive physical assessment by your physician. For your convenience, you can print and complete this medical assessment form to share with your doctor when you have your physical exam.

Your doctor’s examination should include a complete set of vitals and a lab work.

If you have had a recent bone mineral density test or electrocardiogram, bring these test results with you to your first appointment as well.

For adolescents, bring a copy of the growth chart from the pediatrician.

Before your first appointment, have the lab results faxed to our clinical coordinator at 212-849-2561. 

Why is it important to find treatment?

Eating disorders can lead to serious physical complications, such as loss of menstrual periods and infertility in women, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances, cardiac and kidney dysfunction, gastrointestinal difficulties, and dental deterioration in both men and women. With anorexia and bulimia, physical complications can be fatal. In addition to the physical effects, these illnesses often affect psychological and social functioning, which can cause problems in important life areas, such as relationships, work, and school. Treatment can help address both physical and emotional problems related to the eating disorder. While complications of eating disorders can be severe, they can often be reversed with appropriate treatment. 

Do eating disorders affect both women and men?

Yes. Of the approximately eight million Americans with an eating disorder, one million are men. Some men experience eating disorder symptoms similar to those in women in that they fear gaining weight or getting fat. Other men suffer from a condition called muscle dysmorphia, which causes them to see themselves as insufficiently muscular. In addition to having a negative body self-image, they go to unhealthy extremes to achieve an extremely muscular (hypermuscular) physique. 

How do I recognize the signs of an eating disorder in a loved one?

Someone struggling with an eating disorder can exhibit warning behaviors such as extreme concerns about weight or shape, unexplained sudden weight loss or weight gain (binge eating disorder), or strange eating patterns or behaviors,  such as avoidance of eating in front of people, skipping meals, or disappearing into a bathroom after meals. You can contact a professional for more information to understand the early warning signs. 

How do I talk to someone I suspect of having an eating disorder?

People with eating disorders often resist help, possibly due to denial, shame, or worry that therapy could lead to weight gain.

If you are a parent of a child or teenager who is exhibiting warning signs, try statements such as, “I want to find help for you because I love you.” If there is resistance to admitting a problem or unwillingness to seek treatment, you may need to begin by arranging treatment without your child’s cooperation to protect your child from life-threatening complications.

If you are concerned that a friend may have an eating disorder, try to discuss your concerns with that friend directly in private, identifying the behaviors that worry you. If your friend is a child or adolescent, speak to a trusted, responsible adult, such as a teacher, guidance counselor, or parent, to get help. 

How can I control my eating disorder during the holidays or other special events?

The holidays and special events can be difficult times for many people, especially for those who struggle with eating behaviors. To the extent possible, maintain a regular, moderate eating pattern. For example, do not try to compensate for a big holiday meal by eating significantly less before or after. It may also be helpful to talk about the holidays beforehand with your doctor or therapist to develop a plan for coping with any anticipated stress.