An eating disorder is an umbrella term used to describe illnesses that are characterised by irregular eating habits and extreme concern about body image. Eating disorders can develop at any stage in life, but typically begin during adolescence or early adulthood. The most common types of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder, which can affect both men and women.
It can be difficult to spot if someone has an eating disorder as they will often experience shame or guilt about their behaviour and will try to hide it. If you or someone you know is experiencing several of the following symptoms outlined below, it is important to seek help from a professional.
· Frequently avoiding eating meals and giving excuses why they cannot eat.
· Repetitively checking body weight or size e.g. constantly weighing themselves and excessively checking their appearance in the mirror.
· Evidence of binge eating (disappearance of large amounts of food, wrappers appearing in bins, hoarding food).
· Evidence of vomiting or using laxatives (frequent trips to the bathroom shortly after eating).
· Eating very slowly, cutting food into small pieces or rearranging food on the plate.
· Rapid weight loss
· Disrupted menstrual periods in females
· Feeling dizzy
· Signs of frequent vomiting (swollen cheeks, damage to teeth, cuts on knuckles or fingers).
· Obsessive fear of gaining weight
· Heightened anxiety around meal times
· Extreme body dissatisfaction
· Moodiness or irritability
· Low self-esteem (feeling worthless, feelings of shame, guilt or self-loathing).
Eating disorders are diagnosed based on these signs, symptoms and eating behaviours. If your doctor believes you have an eating disorder, they will perform a number of tests and assessments including a physical exam and psychological evaluation.
The treatment of an eating disorder will depend of the severity and type of eating disorder. In general, treatment includes psychotherapy, nutritional education and medication.
For more information about the common signs of eating disorders, visit the following website links: