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Eating disorders

Eating orders can be characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes a change in behaviour in their eating patterns and or eating style.

Eating disorders can affect anyone any age however there are certain groups that are more commonly affected. People with eating disorders are not just slim; they can be overweight or obese, if they have an obsession with food.

It can often be difficult to realise that you or someone around you has an eating disorder. However there are warning signs to look out for if you suspect someone may have an eating disorder these include:

Behavioural/psychological signs:

  • Missing meal – or making excuses to miss meals, like they have already eaten or they are going out to eat.
  • Complaining of being fat even though they are normal body weight or are underweight.
  • Constant or repetitive dieting. For example calorie counting, fasting avoiding certain food, replacing meals with liquids.
  • Evidence of binge eating for example large amounts of food disappearing from cupboards, hoarding particular types of food for bingeing.
  • Evidence of vomiting or unnecessary laxative use, this may be obvious with frequent trips to the toilet especially after meals.
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise, this may be obvious if there is exercise being carried out even after injury, or becoming distressed if exercise is not able to be carried out.
  • Developing patterns or obsessive rituals around food preparation, eating, planning. For example insisting meals are only eaten at a certain time, eating from a certain plate, or drinking from a certain cup.
  • Strong focus on body image shape and weight, for example interest in weight loss websites, magazines, diet books, constantly weighing them self or looking in the mirror
  • Social withdrawal from friends and family
  • Depression or anxiety, low self esteem for example feeling of worthless, feeling of shame or guilt.
  • Changes in mood or irritability.

Physical signs:

  • Sudden or rapid weight loss/gain
  • Frequent changes in weight
  • Loss of disturbance in menstrual periods in women
  • Signs of frequent vomiting – swollen cheeks, jaw line, damage to teeth.
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Always feeling tired and unable to perform normal activities.

Causes of developing and eating disorder are very complex. There are certain risk factors that can increase chances of developing eating disorder.

There are both biological and influencing factors, for example:

  • If there is a family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse
  • Being criticised for their eating habits, body shape or weight
  • Being overly conscious of the need to be slim, especially if there is added pressure from a job. For example models, ballet dancers and athletes
  • Certain behavioural characteristics such as obsessive personality, anxiety disorder, low self-esteem, or the need to be a perfectionist
  • Being subjected to sexual, emotional, physical, abuse
  • The death of a close family member or relative or friend

If an eating order is not detected and left untreated it can have serious physical effects and can sometimes be fatal. Recovery from an eating disorder can often take a long time, even years, and it is important that all the people involved are supportive in helping them deal with their physical health as well as the underlying psychological issues.

There are a number of treatments that are beneficial in helping someone with an eating disorder get on the road to a happy, healthy relationship with themselves and food.

These include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – this helps changing the way someone thinks about a particular situation, which in turn will affect the way they act.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy – a talking therapy that focuses on relationship-based issues, can help a person come to terms and understand the way they feel and why they may behave in a particular way.
  • Dietary counselling – a talking therapy to help people maintain a healthy diet, also education about what is a normal healthy diet, can formulate healthy meal plans structured and suited to each person.
  • Psychodynamic therapy – a talking therapy that focuses on a person life experiences and personality their current thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

* The contents of this condition is for information purposes only.