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Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a serious mental health condition that result in a person having an unhealthy relationship with food which negatively impacts both their mental and physical health. Eating disorders are more commonly diagnosed in female teenagers and young women but can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, cultural background and socioeconomic status. There are a variety of different types of eating disorders and they don’t all affect people in the same way. Some people with eating disorders can look outwardly very healthy, others will show physical signs. It is important to seek help as soon as possible if you believe you may have an eating disorder.

 

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

A person with anorexia nervosa will

  • Restrict their eating below what is required for healthy bodily function
  • Fear gaining weight or being overweight
  • Typically have a weight below what would be considered healthy for someone of their age, height, sex, etc.
  • Often have a strict exercise schedule
  • Sometimes have a distorted image of their weight and consider themselves fat

Bulimia Nervosa

Someone experiencing bulimia nervosa will 

  • experience cycles of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours
    • Binge eating is characterised by overeating in a short period of time, eating until uncomfortably full or continuing to eat even when not physically hungry 
    • Compensating behaviours are ones that try and counteract the potential weight gain effects of overeating and may include purging through methods such as vomiting, using laxatives or diet pills, excessive exercise, or fasting for several days
  • Often binge eat in secret
  • Typically maintain a constant weight 

Binge Eating Disorder

Someone with binge eating disorder will

  • Repeatedly overeat or binge eat as described above
  • Often experience shame or guilt during or after overeating 
  • Unlike a person diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, not engage in compensatory behaviours after overeating

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

A person diagnosed with OSFED will

  • Not meet all the criteria of one of the above disorders
  • Have disruptive eating habits 
  • Often have a distorted body image

 

Symptoms of Eating Disorders

A person with an eating disorder will typically not experience all symptoms listed below but will experience enough of them to have a negative impact on their physical, mental and emotional health.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Constant and excessive dieting
  • Avoidance of social situations that will involve food
  • Obsession with their weight or physical appearance
  • Meal time anxiety, that is feelings of guilt, anxiety or shame in relation to food
  • Bnge eating
  • Purging, i.e. partaking in behaviours that reduce your ability to adequately digest food such as vomiting or taking laxatives or diet pills after eating
  • Obsessive rituals around food
  • Ftigue or dizziness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive exercise or anxiety around altering a strict exercise routine
  • Eating in secret
  • Changes to clothing preferences such as wearing baggy clothing

 

Diagnosis of An Eating Disorder

There is no one method for diagnosing an eating disorder but it is usually done as a combination of physical and psychological examinations.

  • Physical examinations may check a person's weight, height and vital functions in order to assess for any physical impacts of an eating disorder
  • Psychological examinations may consist of a conversation or questionnaire with a mental health professional to understand a person's eating habits, behaviours and beliefs as well as feelings around their body image

 

Treatment of An Eating Disorder

Treatment of an eating disorder typically involves a team approach with multiple health professionals working together with the patient to change their perceptions, behaviours and habits around eating and their weight.

Medical health professionals who may be involved in treating an eating disorder include:

  • GPs
  • Dietitians
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Counsellors
  • Nurses
  • Social workers


It is important that if you believe you may have an eating disorder that you consult a GP or other medical professional as soon as possible. Treatment is typically easier with early intervention and resultant health consequences such as an increased likelihood of experiencing depression or physical damage to the digestive system is minimised. Here at Inner Psych our team of psychologists are able to assist you on your journey to recovery from all forms of eating disorder. We offer telehealth counselling everywhere in Australia including in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Brisbane. We can work with you using tools such as cognitive behavioural therapy and family therapy to help you develop new routines and ways of thinking resulting in a healthy relationship to food. Reach out today and talk to one of our expert team members using the information available on our ‘Contact’ page.

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