Eating disorders involve significant psychological distress, as well as being associated with serious physical health complications. The three major forms of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-eating disorder.
Signs and symptoms
Please open the toggle boxes below to find out more about the specific signs and symptoms of the three different eating disorder types.
To be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa there are 3 core criteria that must be met:
- A restrictive diet resulting in significantly low body weight.
- The person has a strong fear of gaining weight, or becoming fat. They may also engage in behaviour that prevents weight gain, such as excessive exercise.
- Distorted body image, body weight or shape is over emphasised in self-evaluation, or there is a strong lack of understanding in the seriousness of the low body weight.
This eating disorder is characterised by binge eating. Specifically it refers to both of the following points:
- Eating in a certain period of time (such as within a 2 hour period) a quantity of food that is larger than what most other people would eat in similar circumstances.
- There is a feeling of having a lack of control over eating during the binging (e.g., sense that they cannot stop eating or have control over what or how much is being consumed).
- There is also the pursuit of behaviours to prevent weight gain such as causing themselves to vomit, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, fasting or excessive exercise.
- The binges and behaviours to prevent weight gain occur at least once a week for 3 months.
- Body shape and weight also overly influence self-evaluation.
This disorder has some similarities with Bulimia Nervosa, and has the same aspects to binge eating, namely eating a large quantity of food in a certain time period, being more than what most people would eat in a similar situation, and a feeling of not having control over the binge eating. However they also experience at least 3 of the following with binge eating episodes:
- Eating much faster than normal.
- Continue to eat until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts of food even though they are not feeling hungry.
- Eating alone because of embarrassment regarding how much they are eating.
- Feeling disgusted with themselves, guilty and depressed.
- The binge-eating causes considerable distress, and occurs around once a week for 3 months. It is not however associated with behaviour to try and prevent weight gain.
Prevalence and who is more likely to experience an eating disorder
Approximately one in 20 Australians has an eating disorder. It affects more females than males, although this difference is less in binge eating disorder. Unfortunately less is known about eating disorders among males.
The primary approach is psychological, the person centred approach that is tailored to the individual is suggested as an effective model for specific treatment to be tailored. This treatment focuses on recovery and looks at the illness in a wide context (e.g., physical and psychological). It involves the person with the eating disorder in all treatment decisions.
Due to the medical implications of the anorexia nervosa, treatment typically involves a team approach with involving both doctors and mental health specialists.