An eating disorder is a mental health disorder where you use food and weight to cope with emotional distress.
People of all ages, genders and backgrounds can develop an eating disorder, although teenagers and young women are at higher risk.
With treatment, you can recover from an eating disorder. If you are going through an eating disorder, it is important to have the right assessment and treatment as early as possible to help you deal with your physical, nutritional and mental health needs.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder you're not alone. There is support there and you can get through it.
Recovery is the best option, it can be a long and hard road but you can get through it. You are so much stronger than you even know.
"What are the types of eating disorders?"
Anorexia (or anorexia nervosa) is a serious mental illness where people are of low weight due to limiting how much they eat and drink. They may develop “rules” around what they feel they can and cannot eat, as well as things like when and where they’ll eat. Anorexia can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background.
As well as limiting how much they eat, they may do lots of exercise, make themselves sick, or misuse laxatives to get rid of food eaten. Some people with anorexia may experience cycles of bingeing (eating large amounts of food at once) and then purging.
Bulimia (or bulimia nervosa) is a serious mental illness. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background. People with bulimia are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called bingeing), and then trying to compensate for that overeating by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or exercising excessively (called purging). Treatment at the earliest possible opportunity gives the best chance for a fast and sustained recovery from bulimia.
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are diagnosed using a list of expected behavioural, psychological, and physical symptoms. Sometimes a person’s symptoms don’t exactly fit the expected symptoms for any of these three specific eating disorders. In that case, they might be diagnosed with an “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED).
This is very common. OSFED accounts for the highest percentage of eating disorders, and anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background can experience it. It is every bit as serious as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, and can develop from or into another diagnosis. People suffering from OSFED need and deserve treatment just as much as anyone else with an eating disorder.
Rumination disorder is an illness that involves repetitive, habitual bringing up of food that might be partly digested. It often occurs effortlessly and painlessly, and is not associated with nausea or disgust. Rumination disorder can affect anyone at any age.
Vomiting in rumination disorder is different to the kind of sickness you might get with a stomach bug, for example – the person won’t appear to feel sick or experience involuntary retching. The person may re-chew and re-swallow the food or just spit it out. People with rumination disorder often do not feel in control of their disorder.
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, more commonly known as ARFID, is a condition characterised by the person avoiding certain foods or types of food, having restricted intake in terms of overall amount eaten, or both. Someone might be avoiding and/or restricting their intake for a number of different reasons.
Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness where people eat very large quantities of food without feeling like they’re in control of what they’re doing. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background, and evidence suggests it is more common than other eating disorders.
Orthorexia refers to an unhealthy obsession with eating “pure” food. Food considered “pure” or “impure” can vary from person to person. This doesn’t mean that anyone who subscribes to a healthy eating plan or diet is suffering from orthorexia. As with other eating disorders, the eating behaviour involved – “healthy” or “clean” eating in this case – is used to cope with negative thoughts and feelings, or to feel in control. Someone using food in this way might feel extremely anxious or guilty if they eat food they feel is unhealthy
Pica is a feeding disorder in which someone eats non-food substances that have no nutritional value, such as paper, soap, paint, chalk, or ice. For a diagnosis of pica, the behaviour must be present for at least one month, not part of a cultural practice, and developmentally inappropriate – generally, it’s not diagnosed in children under the age of two, as it is common for babies to “mouth” objects, which can lead to them accidentally eating substances that aren’t meant to be eaten. Often, pica is not revealed until medical consequences occur, such as metal toxicity, cracked teeth, or infections
Anyone of any age, gender, background etc can suffer from an eating disorder.
You don't need to be underweight to have an eating disorder. Your thoughts and feelings are valid and its important to get
A person can develop an eating disorder for any number of reasons, and there is usually an accumulation of ‘risk factors’ which are identified as the person progresses through treatment.
It is not always the case that something significantly traumatic has happened in a person’s life that has caused the eating disorder, although sometimes this can be the case. More often than not, there are many factors that for some reason interact in a particular way for that particular person, triggering them to engage in disordered eating behaviours, which in turn triggers their thinking to become distorted and results in the person becoming increasingly ‘imprisoned’ by the eating disorder. - Bodywhys