Types of eating disorders
Some of the main types of eating disorders include:
Restricted eating that results in weight loss, and fear of gaining weight.
Involves periods of binge eating unhealthy foods, followed by attempts to compensate by over-exercising, vomiting, or strict dieting.
Binge eating disorder
Recurring periods of binge eating followed by feelings of guilt, disgust and depression.
Other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED)
Eating behaviours that cause distress that aren’t categorised in the above three.
Even if you don’t fit into any of these categories it’s important to seek help if you are struggling with obsessive or negative thoughts about food or your body, or if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
What causes an eating disorder?
There is no one single cause of an eating disorder. Social, psychological and biological factors all play a part and the root cause is unique to each person.
The most important thing to remember is that your eating disorder is not your fault, it is a mental health condition that can affect anybody.
These can include the media and representations of the ‘ideal body’, pressure to succeed, our cultural tendency to judge people on appearance or activities that encourage a certain body shape or weight e.g. ballet, modelling or gymnastics.
Major life changes
Changes such as relationship breakdowns, pregnancy, the death of a loved one, moving to a new city or becoming a new parent can contribute to the onset of an eating disorder.
Fears of the responsibilities of adulthood, communication issues with friends or family or long held beliefs about the relationship between love and achievement along with many others can all accumulate to trigger an eating disorder.
Physical changes during adolescence or growing up as part of a family unit that are overly focused on body image, food or appearance can contribute to the onset of an eating disorder.
Issues such as low self-esteem, negative body image, anxiety, depression, obsessive thinking and difficulty expressing emotion can manifest as an eating disorder.
There is also some evidence to suggest that eating disorders could have a genetic basis, although the biological causes are not well understood.
Treatment of eating disorders
If you suspect that you might have an eating disorder, it’s important to reach out and seek help, however hard that might be. Whilst recovery can be slow, with the right help and support it is possible to manage your eating disorder and even recover completely.
It’s normal to feel stressed, nervous, embarrassed, anxious or even ashamed when it comes to seeking treatment for an eating disorder. You may be in denial about your issue or feel that you have the disorder under control on your own, even when you don’t.
Remember, getting treatment as early as possible can reduce the severity and impact of an eating disorder so seek help as soon as you notice any warning signs.
Your doctor can help you set up a personalised treatment plan. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for someone else, even if they have the same type of eating disorder. There are several types of effective treatment that are supported by evidence, and most people will need to try a combination of things. It’s usually recommended to get support from a team of health professionals such as a dietitian, social worker, dentist, psychologist, psychiatrist or others, depending on your individual needs. At some points, you may need extra support or more intensive treatment, and at other times you may need less. This is a normal part of recovery.