Eating disorders are a range of conditions involving an obsession with food, weight and appearance. This obsession negatively affects people's health, relationships and day-to-day living. To be diagnosed with an eating disorder, a person must have both disordered eating and psychological disturbance.
People with anorexia have an intense and irrational fear of gaining weight and having body fat. They may believe they're fat, even when well below the normal weight for their height and age. Anorexia is the most fatal eating disorder: some people may die of complications related to starvation, while others die of suicide.
People with bulimia go through cycles of bingeing and purging. Bingeing involves eating large amounts of food quickly. This makes people feel physically ill and anxious about gaining weight. Then they purge, which can involve vomiting, depriving themselves of food, over exercising or using laxatives and diuretics.
People with binge eating disorder overeat compulsively, consuming huge amounts of food, often all at once. Like the other disorders, people with BED often feel out of control and powerless to stop the behaviour.
Short-term symptoms include:
Long-term symptoms may include:
Eating disorders appear to result from multiple factors including cultural, social, family and emotional pressures; personality disorders; genetics and biological factors. Some research has shown a connection between child sexual abuse and subsequent development of eating disorders. Eating disorders typically begin during adolescence. Moreover, up to 90 per cent of eating disorders occur in women, though men are being diagnosed more often.
Treatment approaches include:
Psychiatry in Primary Care © 2011 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Eating disorders © 2016 National Institute of Mental Health
Visit our COVID-19 resource hub for tools to help you find a path forward.
Keep your finger on our pulse – latest CAMH news, discoveries and ways to get involved delivered to your inbox.
Please select a newsletter
Please complete the following:
We look forward to keeping you informed, inspired and involved in all things CAMH.
We’re working toward a future where no one has to lose their life to suicide. Your donation will help us get there.