According to the DSM-IV-TR (2000), eating disorders are “characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior.” The disturbances manifest themselves in overor underfeeding or the repeated binge eating of food followed by purging with vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise, and so on.
Eating disorders are often marked by an obsession with food, with sufferers constantly thinking about it and using it as a way to create control and perfection.
The typical mindset behind an eating disorder is that the only thing that people can really be in control of is the amount of food they take in, so if being thin is perfect, then they can become perfect by controlling the amount of food that they eat. This sense of control over their weight also leads to a sense of control in their lives.
People with anorexia nervosa attempt to gain this control over their weight by eating far less than they should and exercising constantly. Individuals with bulimia nervosa binge on food and then purge it somehow to regain control over the food. Needless to say, both of these disorders are very dangerous, and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder.
Research indicates that anywhere from 18 to 37 percent of individuals with an eating disorder also have OCD. Also, recent research has indicated that females who develop OCD prior to adolescence have around a 40 percent chance of developing an eating disorder in adolescence. Therefore, it appears that there is a rather strong relationship between eating disorders and OCD.
If the obsessions and compulsive behaviors are related only to food, then the diagnosis would be an eating disorder. However, if there are other obsessions and compulsions, the diagnosis of OCD is also warranted.