Learn about the facts about food disorders including what these disorders are, who is affected by them and what to do if you need help and support.
What is an eating disorder?
There are several different types of eating disorders; the most common are anorexia, bulimia and bronchitis.
Food disorders are psychological states and all involve an unhealthy relationship with food and eating, and are often accompanied by extreme fear of being overweight. If you have a food disorder, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
You have a state of preoccupation with food and gaining weight.
You want to lose weight even though your friends or family are worried about whether you are underweight.
Let those around you think that you have eaten while you have not eaten.
You deal privately with your eating habits because you know they are unhealthy.
Eating makes you feel confused, disturbed, or guilty.
You may force yourself to vomit or use laxatives to lose weight.
What causes eating disorders?
The eating disorder is unlikely to be caused by one cause. It is likely to be due to a combination of many factors, events, feelings or pressures that lead to your feeling that you are unable to overcome the problems.
These can include low self-esteem, problems with friends or family members, the death of a special person that means a lot to you, problems at school, college, university or work, mistrust, or sexual or emotional abuse.
Many people talk about just feeling overweight or not being good enough. Maybe you may use food to help you deal with painful situations or feelings without even realising it.
Your focus on food and eating may be a way to deal with problems, where there are high expectations and academic expectations, family problems or social pressures.
Painful events can lead to food disruptions. This can include the loss of a person, bullying or ill-treatment, family divorce or anxiety about sexual life.
A person with a persistent disease or disability (such as diabetes, depression, blindness or deafness) may suffer from food disorders.
Some studies have also shown that there are biological factors associated with food disorder. In other words, some people will be more susceptible to food disorder because of their genetic makeup.
Who is affected by eating disorders?
Anyone can get a food disorder, regardless of age, gender, cultural or ethnic background. The most affected by the food disorder are young women, especially those between the ages of 15 and 25, and about 10% of those with food disorders are men.
What should I do if I think I have a food disorder?
People suffering from food disorder often say that this disorder is the only way they feel controlled in their lives. But, as time passes, the food disorder is the one that starts to control you. You may be shaped by the desire to hurt yourself, or abuse alcohol or drugs.
If you feel that you have trouble eating, talk to someone you trust. You may have a close friend or family member you can talk to.
Your doctor can also advise and talk to you about possible diagnosis and treatment options that will depend on your personal condition and the type of disorders you are experiencing.
Are you worried about a friend or relative being hit by an eating disorders?
It is hard to know what to do if you are concerned about a friend or about a family member. It is common for people with food disorders to be secretive and defensive about their eating habits and weight, and is likely to deny their illness.