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Eating Disorders

How Eating Disorders Work

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders can be described as mental health conditions that involve an unhealthy relationship with food or eating. Eating disorders are quite common, affecting an estimated 4% of the Australian in any given year. Despite the common perception of eating disorders being most common in young women with anorexia nervosa, around one third of Australians affected by eating disorders are male, and almost half of Australians affected by eating disorders experience binge eating disorder.
Women on scales worried about eating disorder
Young woman with eating disorder on floor in kitchen surrounded by packets of food on the floor.

What do Eating Disorders Look Like?

An eating disorders looks different for each person, however they are usually underpinned by an overvaluation of body weight, body shape, or the control of weight/shape. The most commonly diagnosed eating disorders in Australia are binge-eating disorder (47%), other eating disorders (38%), bulimia nervosa (12%), and anorexia nervosa (3%).

Binge-eating disorder involves repeated, distressing episodes of binge eating where the characteristics of eating (speed, amount, continuation of eating, related emotions) are different from their normal eating patterns, and often involves a sense of loss of control over the eating.

Other eating disorders are eating patterns that cause significant problems for the person, and may include behaviours that: do not quite meet the full requirements for another eating disorder diagnosis, or; involve restriction or avoidance of foods for various reasons (e.g., textures), or; consuming things with no nutritional value, and more.

 

What do Eating Disorders Look Like?

An eating disorders looks different for each person, however they are usually underpinned by an overvaluation of body weight, body shape, or the control of weight/shape. The most commonly diagnosed eating disorders in Australia are binge-eating disorder (47%), other eating disorders (38%), bulimia nervosa (12%), and anorexia nervosa (3%).

Binge-eating disorder involves repeated, distressing episodes of binge eating where the characteristics of eating (speed, amount, continuation of eating, related emotions) are different from their normal eating patterns, and often involves a sense of loss of control over the eating.

Other eating disorders are eating patterns that cause significant problems for the person, and may include behaviours that: do not quite meet the full requirements for another eating disorder diagnosis, or; involve restriction or avoidance of foods for various reasons (e.g., textures), or; consuming things with no nutritional value, and more.

 

Young woman with eating disorder on floor in kitchen surrounded by packets of food on the floor.

Bulimia Nervosa involves repeated, uncontrollable binge-eating of large amounts of food over short periods, followed by inappropriate behaviour to “make up” for the binge-eating (e.g., vomiting, laxative or diuretic use, excessive exercise).

Anorexia Nervosa involves the restriction of food (energy) intake so that less energy is eaten than is needed, which results in significantly low body weight. It also involves intense fear of weight gain or constant behaviours that prevent weight gain, despite low weight. People affected by anorexia nervosa often place excessive importance on their weight and shave, view themselves as weighing more than they actually do, and may dismiss or be unable to recognise the serious health complications that can arise from their eating behaviours.

Do I need to deal with my eating behaviours, and what can be done?

If you or someone close to you have concerns about your eating patterns or behaviours, it can be helpful to have an assessment conducted by a trained professional. There is a great deal of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of Enhanced Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Eating Disorders (CBT-E), which seeks to reduce the emphasis of weight and shape on a person’s self worth, while challenging thoughts and behaviours that maintain disordered eating patterns and habits.

Are Your Eating Patterns Causing Difficulties for You?

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