Eating disorders are conditions involving an obsession with food, weight and/or appearance that negatively affect people's health and daily living.
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.
Binge eating disorder (BED)
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.
Signs & Symptoms
Short-term symptoms include:
extremely restricted eating (e.g., avoiding mealtime, eating only certain foods)
a constant pursuit of thinness and an unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
an intense fear of gaining weight (e.g., frequently weighing themselves)
a distorted body image (e.g., seeing themselves as overweight when they are not).
Long-term symptoms may include:
muscle wasting and weakness
brittle hair and nails
dry and yellowish skin
fine hair growth all over the body
low blood pressure
slowed breathing and pulse
sensitivity to cold
lethargy, sluggishness or feeling tired all the time
changes in menstruation
a frequently inflamed and sore throat
swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
severe dehydration from purging of fluids
electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals), which can lead to stroke or heart attack.
Binge eating disorder (BED)
eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time
eating even when full
eating fast during binge episodes
eating until uncomfortably full
eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
feeling distressed, ashamed or guilty about eating
frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss.
Causes & Risk Factors
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.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Treatment approaches include:
psychoeducation, including self-help resources and resources for families