An eating disorder is a treatable illness that causes serious disturbances to a person's everyday diet. A person with an eating disorder has a distorted attitude to their dietary intake and typically also suffers a distorted sense of their body weight and shape.
Persons suffering eating disorders frequently also suffer depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders. A person with an eating disorder may have low self-esteem and lack confidence in many areas of their life. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder are the most common forms of eating disorders. With significant overlap between the disorders, all three can be life-threatening and need to be taken seriously.
Anorexia Nervosa is characterised by:
- Extremely restricted eating
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body image
- Lack of menstruation among girls and women
- Muscle wasting and weakness
- Severe constipation
Bulimia Nervosa is marked by the sufferer's secretiviness, accompanied by feelings of shame. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy weight. Their symptoms include:
- Recurrent and frequent feelings of being out of control
- Frequent daily episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food
- Forced vomiting after eating
- Use of laxatives
- Excessive exercise
Binge Eating Disorder is when people lose control over their eating; are obese or over weigh;t but do not purge, exercise or fast.
Psychotherapy and medical attention are effective treatment for many eating disorders. Research has shown that supportive psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and family based treatment has been helpful for adolescents and young adults.