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Eating disorders

An eating disorder involves an abnormal relationship with food — either eating less or over-eating —with negative effects on one’s physical or mental health

The most well-known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. They both include behaviours such as laxative use, self-induced vomiting and over-exercising. Both involve an excessive desire to be thin, but where an anorexic will dramatically cut their calorie intake to the point of starvation, bulimia usually involves a cycle of binge-eating and vomiting

Binge-eating disorder is characterised by eating more frequently and/or in much larger portions than is normal or healthy, inevitably causing obesity and serious health risks.

What are some of the signs?

You or someone close to you may have an eating disorder if they:

  • Eat very little or far too much, including at meal times and throughout the day and night
  • Express dissatisfaction with their weight or body shape
  • Self-induce vomiting after meals
  • Abuse laxatives or diet pills
  • Compulsively move between their scales and the jogging track or gym

Causes of an eating disorder

There are many factors that combine to cause an eating disorder. These include:

  • Social factors: Having negative role models in their direct environment and in the media can cause people to be irrationally dissatisfied with their bodies
  • Biological factors: Some people are genetically predisposed to developing an eating disorder
  • Personality factors: People with eating disorders often have low self-esteem and can be highly sensitive and perfectionists
  • Environmental factors: Eating disorders can occur during a stressful time of life, such as pregnancy, puberty, relationship difficulties, loss or trauma

Strategies to manage or prevent eating disorders

Creating positive role models for oneself and others with regard to body shape, weight and food can be pivotal in preventing an eating disorder in young people. You can also take action to minimise stress and depression, which can sometimes result in compensatory eating. Identify any possible genetic risk factors for eating disorders and other related illnesses such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. Learn about healthy eating behaviours and try to develop positive habits and thoughts around food and exercise.

When to seek professional assistance

Especially in the case of anorexia nervosa, where the person may be dangerously underweight or malnourished, professional help is very important. Anorexia can cause long-term damage to bones and overall growth and can even lead to premature death. If someone close to you has the signs of an eating disorder, speak to them and encourage them strongly to seek help.

How Psychology Melbourne can help

Psychology Melbourne has a number of psychologists who specialise in the field of eating disorders.

For more information or to make an appointment contact us on our Live Chat or phone (03) 9629 1001 or send us an email via our contact form.

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"The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity."

—Erich Fromm

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