Eating disorders are a range of psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits to develop. They might start with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape.
In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious health consequences and may even result in death if left untreated.
Those with eating disorders can have a variety of symptoms. However, most include the severe restriction of food, food binges, or purging behaviours like vomiting or over-exercising.
Eating disorders are common and increasing in prevalence. There is a lifetime estimated prevalence of 8.4% for women and 2.2% for men.
Eating disorders do not discriminate and can occur in people of any age, weight, size, shape, gender identity, sexuality, cultural background or socioeconomic group.
If you have an eating disorder, you may experience any the following:
- A preoccupation and concern about your appearance, food and gaining weight.
- Extreme dissatisfaction with your body — you would like to lose weight even though friends or family worry that you are underweight.
- A fear of gaining weight.
- You let people around you think you have eaten when you haven’t.
- You are secretive about your eating habits because you know they are unhealthy.
- Eating makes you feel anxious, upset or guilty.
- You feel you are not in control around food.
- You keep checking your body — for example, weighing yourself or pinching your waist.
- Making yourself vomit or using laxatives in order to lose weight.
Common types of eating disorder
Binge eating disorder (BED)
BED makes up almost half of all cases of eating disorder in Australia. People suffering from this disorder will frequently consume very large quantities of food, even when they are not hungry (known as ‘binging’).
People with this disorder have frequent eating binges, often in secret, then get rid of the food through vomiting, laxatives or diet pills (known as ‘purging’). People with bulimia often feel out of control.
People with this condition can be severely underweight, are preoccupied with food and fear putting on weight. They often have a distorted body image and see themselves as fat. People living with anorexia nervosa may create extreme rules and restrictions about their diets and exercise schedules.
Psychological therapies are shown to have the greatest impact on eating disorder symptom reduction and other outcomes. Several psychological therapies have been identified as effective first-line treatments for eating disorders. Psychological therapy is provided as part of a multidisciplinary care approach in combination with medical and nutritional management and recovery-based supports, and as much as possible, involves the person’s family, carers, and supports.
Enhanced cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT-E) is one of the most effective treatments for eating disorders. It is a “transdiagnostic” treatment for all forms of eating disorder including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other similar states.
Dr Reza Nejad is a Credentialed Eating Disorder Clinician from Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorder (ANZAED).
Our psychologists at Sehat Psychology empower and motivate their clients, help set realistic goals, teach proven strategies on coping with eating disorders
Eating disorders are complex problems, but they can be overcome. Contact Sehat Psychology on (08) 7079 9529 or via our Online Contact Form for more information or to make an appointment.