What is an Eating Disorder?edchkadmin2017-03-02T06:45:46+00:00
How do you know if your loved one has an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are complex. They can also be life threatening. So recognising an eating disorder in another person is important – but not always easy. A person with an eating disorder will often be negatively critical about their weight and shape, and about what they have eaten or not eaten. They will sometimes engage in extreme behaviours including:
the abuse of diuretics
the abuse of laxatives
Hidden problems – but extensive
Eating Disorders can have serious effects on all aspects of a person’s life:
They are often very private and hidden problems. This is why they can exist for a long time before recognised by someone else, someone like you. It’s particularly difficult when early warning signs are similar to restrictive fad dieting so commonplace in western culture.
Why do they do these things?
This behaviour is a symptom of the eating disorder. It’s the outward sign of deeper psychological issues. These are habits people with eating disorders have formed to cope with stress.
Shouldn’t they just stop doing these things?
Unfortunately, it’s not that straight-forward. It is about understanding the complex nature of the mental illness – dealing with the cause as well as the symptom. Recovery from an eating disorder is not as simple as the person recognising the need to ‘just eat normally’.
People close to someone with an eating disorder may notice some of the following
Increasing range of foods avoided
Avoiding communal eating
Ritualistic or secretive eating
Fine Body Hair
Lack of energy
Cold (can’t get warm)
Wearing baggy clothes
Why an expert diagnosis is important
Some of these behaviours may be considered part of becoming an adolescent, an individual’s personality, going through menopause, or going on a diet to be ‘healthy’. That’s why seeking expert advice is recommended. Does your gut tell you what you are seeing is not ‘normal’? Follow your gut, and see a GP – preferably one with eating disorder expertise. Download our GP Assessment tool to complete.
Call The Eating Disorders Association for a list of GP’s in QLD with eating disorder experience.
Not happy with the GP advice you received? Then get a second or third opinion. You may wish to call EDA first for a free telephone consultation to assess your individual situation and direct you towards appropriate professional support. Review our eating disorder pathway for ideas on which part of the process you are at and where else it might be useful to go for assistance.
Which eating disorder?
There are a number of types of eating disorders, including:
Binge eating disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
EDNOS – Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
Over time many people move between them (maybe start with anorexia and then move to binge eating). The most common two are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.
Bulimia usually starts with restriction of food intake that leads to uncontrolled consumption of large amounts of food (bingeing). Feelings of guilt and panic can follow, leading to attempts to get rid of the food eaten. This eventually becomes a cycle of food restriction, bingeing and purging.
About 0.5% to 1.0% of young women develop anorexia nervosa. It can affect women of any age. Approximately 5% of people with anorexia are male. Significant weight loss due to self-starvation characterises anorexia, often with serious medical complications.
More on signs and symptoms of individual eating disorders:
One of the well documented impact of eating less than the body requires is ‘starvation syndrome’. It is good to have an understanding of what this is as it has a huge impact on behaviour and thinking and it is why the first step of treatment is ‘food is medicine’ step. Until starvation syndrome is addressed leading to clearer thinking and emotional stablisation recovery from an eating disorder is not likely.
How is the body affected by starvation. Overviews the general effects of lack of nutrition and then talk briefly about starvation study.
Eating Disorders 101
National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) [AUST]
Length: 1.32 mins
How much do you really know about eating disorders? Most people have heard of them, but they don’t know all the facts. So here’s a crash course – Eating Disorders 101.
Eating Disorder Myths…Busted
National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) [AUST]
Length: 1.47 mins
Some people think that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice, a diet “gone too far” or a cry for attention. Others think that someone with an eating disorder has only themselves to blame. All of these things are untrue. Someone with an eating disorder requires serious medical treatment, as well as help and support from friends and family.
Eating Disorders from the inside out
TEDx Talk Dr Laura Hill 18.48
An informative scientific look at the thoughts, anxiety, disturbance and noise that goes with eating disorders.
Crash course on psychology of eating disorder
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) [US]
YouTube – Length: 10.11mins
Dr. Ken Weiner – Families Not to Blame for Eating Disorders
Mental Fitness Inc. [US]
Length: 1.01 mins
Dr Ken Weiner in 1 min video on the fact families don’t cause eating disorder but can be part of the solution.
Body Obsession Can Be Deadly series: Jenny
Length: 2.06 mins
Jenny gives us a small insight into the challenges of getting help for an eating disorder.
Body Obsession Can Be Deadly series: Judy
Length: 2.10 mins
Judy recalls the challenges and realities of caring for a daughter with Anorexia Nervosa.
EDNOS: Most Dangerous, Unheard of Eating Disorder
Nightline – ABC News [US]
Length: 8.01 mins
Video on ENDOS and young adult women (23 and early college)
Journal of Eating Disorders is the first open access, peer-reviewed journal publishing leading research in the science and clinical practice of eating disorders. This site contains research papers on Eating Disorders. If you appreciate and understand technical medical papers it is a great resource.