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What is an Eating Disorder?

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders involve disturbed eating habits and weight control behaviour that disrupts a person’s physical and psychosocial functioning. Disturbed eating habits may take the form of restricted food intake, strict dietary rules, preoccupation with food, and altered mealtime behaviours. Disturbed weight control behaviour can include excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting and misuse of laxatives.   Sufferers can experience dramatic personality changes, fatigue, apathy, social withdrawal, and extreme preoccupation with food, weight and shape. Eating disorders are serious as they carry medical consequences include growth problems, heart problems and, in some cases can be fatal. Boys and girls can both suffer from Eating disorders and may even be underdiagnosed in males because they are less likely to seek help. Types of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Atypical Eating disorders. For  more information on symptoms and next steps,  

CLICK HERE to be directed to the BEAT Website  

CLICK HERE to be directed to Eating Disorder Information  

CLICK HERE to find out about Eating Disorders in Boys


Anorexia Nervosa  

Those with Anorexia Nervosa experience the following symptoms:

  • Extreme thinness, weighing less than 85% of recommended weight for their age and height.
  • An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat despite being underweight.
  • Body weight and shape has an undue influence on self evaluation (how one views or judges themselves)
  • Girls who have started menstruating experience amenorrhoea (loss of periods)
  • Eating very little and/or exercising excessively. May or may not have episodes of overeating.    

Bulimia Nervosa  

Bulimia Nervosa is characterised by:  

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating. A binge is: a) the consumption of an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in similar circumstances, b) within a limited period of time (eg. two hours)
  • A feeling of losing control over eating during the binge.
  • Recurrent inappropriate behaviour that aims to compensate for the binge eating episodes. This can include excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, fasting, or the misuse of laxatives and other medications.
  • Binge eating and compensatory behaviour is frequent (eg. occurs at least twice a week for three months)
  • Body weight and shape has an undue influence on self evaluation.    


Atypical Eating Disorder  

This term is used to describe an eating disorder that does not fulfill specific criteria for AN or BN but is no less problematic.  It is estimated that for every person diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, there are another 2-3 people who fall into this category. Just because a person’s symptoms don’t quite fit a criteria, it doesn’t mean that their eating disorder isn’t just as serious.