Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses that impact millions of people every year in the United States. Eating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which a person is so preoccupied with food and weight that they can often focus on little else.
There are three main types of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge-Eating Disorder. At the DBT Center of Orange County, we work with a team of eating disorder professionals such as physicians, psychiatrists, and dietitians to ensure that each patient receives the highest quality of care. Several of our team members are Certified Eating Disorder Professionals as well.

  • Anorexia Nervosa: People who have Anorexia Nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight. They severely limit the amount of food they eat and can become dangerously thin. This disorder may start out as dieting, but it can grow out of control. The sufferer has a significant misperception of body shape that is characterized by restriction of food intake or fasting, low body weight, and may also use other methods of weight loss such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise.

Signs of Anorexia

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Wearing loose, bulky clothes to hide weight loss
  • Preoccupation with food, dieting, counting calories, etc.
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, such as carbs or fats
  • Avoiding mealtimes or eating in front of others
  • Exercising excessively
  • Irregular or stopping of menstruation
  • Complaining about being “too fat” and denying that thinness is a problem
  • Complaints about constipation and stomach pain


  • Bulimia Nervosa: This disorder is characterized by binge eating and purging by consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed through purging behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, fasting, or excessive exercise.

Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
  • Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting
  • Excessive use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others, or eating very small portions
  • Exercising excessively
  • Complaints about body image
  • Constant dieting behaviors
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide the body


  • Binge Eating: This disorder is defined as eating an unusually large quantity of food in a given period of time which is accompanied by a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode.   This leaves the person feeling disgusted with themselves, depressed or very guilty after the overeating episode.

Signs of Binge Eating

  • Disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
  • Hiding large quantities of food in strange places, and hoarding food
  • Constantly dieting but rarely losing any weight
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide the body
  • Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others

How can DBT help?

  • Mindfulness teaches how to be in control of your mind rather than letting your mind be in control of you. Cognitive restructuring is an important aspect of mindfulness. Many individuals with eating disorders have intrusive or automatic thoughts directing their behaviors. Mindfulness can help diffuse those thoughts and increase awareness of self-judgments. Through Mindfulness, one’s attention can be shifted when attention on a certain thought is not helpful.
  • Distress Tolerance is the ability to deal with emotional suffering effectively. Eating disorder behaviors are often used to provide immediate relief from pain and distress. The goal of this module is to decrease impulsive behaviors (i.e. self-harm, bingeing, purging, etc.) by providing healthy alternate ways of coping with negative emotions such as self-soothing, distracting, and thinking of pros and cons.
  • Emotion Regulation skills focus on validating one’s emotions. This includes learning how to identify a specific emotion and its function, as well as decreasing one’s vulnerability to negative emotional states while increasing positive emotional experiences. The eating disorder behavior serves to “numb” emotions. Learning ways to modulate negative emotions can be extremely helpful.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness skills provide concrete strategies to promote healthy life changes and improve self-respect. Individuals with eating disorders have difficulties with self-esteem, perfectionism, tolerating stressful situations, and strive to please others.