Eating Disorders



What are Eating Disorders? 

Eating Disorders are a group of potentially serious mental and physical health issues. They are characterised by unhelpful or a less than ideal preoccupation with eating, weight, body shape and exercise regimes. It is a relatively common condition with 1 in 20 having some issue sometime in their life. In the absence of treatment this condition can lead to quite serious and sometimes fatal complications.

What are the symptoms of Eating Disorders? 

Eating disorders are actually a group of related conditions. Each of these conditions have different symptoms. All of them are related to eating and weight issues. 

Anorexia Nervosa is a condition where the person affected will either not eat at all or eat very little or binge eat and purge. Additionally they may exercise in an extreme way in an attempt to burn calories. These people may withdraw socially, be unable to eat in public and they may be irritable much of the time. Also they will seem oblivious to the nature of the condition. Importantly Anorexia can have acute issues in relation to physical health. The lack of caloric intake can leave a person very thin which leads the body into shutting down. This may result in things like low blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms and abdominal and digestion issues. 

Anorexia Bulimia is a condition where the person affected will experience being out of control with eating excessively in a relatively brief period of time. This leads then to the person vomiting, exercising excessively or medications like laxatives to help move excessive calories. This is a cycle that takes place and leaves the person with marked emotional and physical issues. Anorexia Bulimia like Nervosa has some quite acute medical issues such as damaged teeth from excessive vomiting and reflux is also common. In extreme cases Dehydration can be symptom of vomiting which can lead to serious cardiac issues which can be fatal. Emotionally those suffering Bulimia may experience low self worth connected to body image issues, guilt and shame related to eating behaviours and also social withdrawal. 

Binge eating disorder is a condition where the person affected will eat a very large amount of food in a short period of time or may eat when they are full or not actually hungry. These people may experience guilt at their behaviour or feel disgusted by their behaviour. Binge eaters do not purge or exercise as a result of excessive intake. They may be normal or overweight. 

Body Image

Body image issues can be a driver of eating disorders. Body image is the perception of ones body and the thoughts and feelings about it. These thoughts and feelings can be negative as well as positive and can be related to the way someone is and the environmental factors. How someone perceives their body may not be the way they actually look. The way a person feels about their body and the way they think about their body can lead to dissatisfaction and/or preoccupation with their shape and how to change it. When a person is dissatisfied with their appearance they may partake in destructive behaviours to change their body.  

What are the causes of Eating Disorders? 

Like many mental health issues Eating Disorders are complex and varied. The issues confronting each person are as individual as the person themselves. There is the obvious issue for Women in that being slim, sometimes excessively so, is valued by our culture and society. The issue for men being that being muscular is highly valued by culture and society. This cultural and societal pressure can be a driver of eating disorder behaviour. 

Am I at risk of Eating Disorder?

There is some evidence that if a family member is affected that a person may be more prone to developing an Eating Disorder. Also influences like peer pressure and experiencing emotional pain from other issues can contribute. Young people are affected more that older people, people who are involved in activities that value thinness like ballet or running are more at risk. Lastly, this condition affects women more than men. 

How can I get help? 

Physical diagnosis and treatment is generally undertaken by a GP and/or specialist. Also you can access psychological help through your GP who can refer you to a psychologist for counselling which is an important component of your treatment. Here at Therapeutic Axis we have an Eating Disorder specialist Melissa Keogh. Contact us for an intake and appointment. 


Further reading can be found here