Eating Disorders / Body Image

What is an Eating Disorder?

There are several different types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa: severe weight loss due to extreme/excessive dieting. People with anorexia may see themselves as overweight even though their weight is normal or low. They may exercise for hours and/or go days without eating.
  • Bulimia nervosa: frequent fluctuations in weight due to periods of uncontrolled binge eating followed by purging (vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, going on fasts, or exercising excessively). People who develop bulimia may lose weight, remain the same weight, or gain weight.
  • Binge-eating: involves periods of uncontrolled, impulsive overeating often triggered by chronic dieting. It is often done in secret and done as a means of gaining comfort.

What is the cause?

There is no single cause. Any of the following may lead to an eating disorder:

  • low self-esteem
  • feeling inadequate
  • feeling a loss of control
  • depression
  • anger
  • loneliness
  • serious problems with family or friends
  • difficulty expressing emotions
  • history of abuse
  • media promotion

What are the signs?

  • low self-esteem
  • social withdrawal
  • feeling fat when at a normal or low weight
  • preoccupation with food, weight, or counting calories
  • denial
  • wanting to be perfect
  • intolerance to others
  • inability to concentrate

What can I do to prevent the onset of eating disorders and/or identify potential problems?

  • model healthy attitudes toward eating and body shape by adopting healthy eating habits yourself
  • support the attitude that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes
  • understand that “harmless” teasing may have a negative effect on body image
  • reinforce self-esteem

What can I do if I think someone may have an eating disorder?

  • Contact your family doctor, guidance counselor, or a child/ adolescent /adult mental health clinician in your region.
  • Diagnosis of an eating disorder can be very difficult, since the symptoms frequently occur in combination with other factors. Also, some people with an eating disorder work very hard to hide it and find it difficult to acknowledge that they have a problem.
  • A multi-disciplinary approach is often most effective, involving medical assessment and follow-up, nutritional guidance, support, and therapy.

Sources & Resources:

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