Affecting approximately 9% of Australians

Eating Disorders describe illnesses characterised by extreme expressions of food, weight and body image issues and are experienced by both women and men. Eating Disorders more commonly appear during teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life. These disorders can be incredibly dangerous because the behaviours are often associated with significant physical health problems.

A self-imposed and severe restriction of foods

This disorder is distinguished by extreme weight loss from a self-imposed and severe restriction of foods and fluids, a distorted body image, an intense fear of becoming fat and low self-esteem. People with Anorexia diet to extremes and will commonly over-exercise in an effort to lose weight. Most sufferers of Anorexia Nervosa don’t realise how underweight and undernourished they are, despite comments from others. Even after reducing to a dangerously low weight, individuals suffering from Anorexia will temporarily feel better after losing weight, continue to “feel fat”, and be convinced they need to lose even more weight. This denial of the problem makes it very hard to convince individuals to seek help.

Regular periods of uncontrolled binge eating

Bulimia is characterised by regular periods of uncontrolled binge eating followed by some form of purging (i.e., self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives or diuretics, strict dieting, fasting or excessive exercising) in an attempt to prevent weight gain. Individuals suffering from Bulimia often experience a persistent and driving concern with their weight, and are either overweight or of normal weight range. Dieting is usually followed by an episode of binging and purging, and often results in feelings of deprivation or hunger, which may trigger another binge. Individuals with bulimia may initially lose weight but most will likely regain it because of the ineffectiveness of purging methods.

Abnormal eating behaviours

EDNOS describes individuals who present with symptoms of disordered eating that are unable to be classified as just one of eating disorders. These symptoms cause considerable distress but the individual does not meet all of the criteria required to be classified as having Anorexia or Bulimia. Approximately 60% of adults suffer from EDNOS, making it the most prevalent of the eating disorders. It is no less severe than any of the other eating disorders, and carries with it many risks.

Using food to cope with uncomfortable feelings

People who experience this condition present with episodes of uncontrolled eating or binging. Compulsive eaters, like people struggling with Anorexia and Bulimia, use food to cope with low self-esteem, stress, emotional conflict and powerlessness. This behaviour is often triggered by an inability to deal directly with uncomfortable feelings and daily problems. Compulsive eating is frequently followed by renewed pledges to diet or over-exercise, thus perpetuating the compulsive cycle. Compulsive eaters are not necessarily “overweight”; they can be any shape or size.