Our bodies need food for the absorption of vitamins and nutrients. However, for some people control of what goes into their bodies, and how they use the energy that food provides, can become an unhealthy obsession.
An eating disorder can be a complex and serious mental health condition which is marked by an unhealthy relationship with food. Around 1 million Australians are affected by an eating disorder. The most common types are:
There are other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED) which don't necessarily align with any specific disorder. People with OSFED commonly have very disruptive eating habits and can have a distorted body image.
Some of the signs that you, or someone you know, may have an eating disorder include:
It is unlikely that an eating disorder has one single cause - more often there is a combination of many factors, feelings or pressures which leads a person to use food, or the limitation of food, to deal with painful situations or feelings.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from an eating disorder, the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcomes will be. Disordered eating can cause harm to the body, so your GP will undertake a thorough examination of you physically. A mental health professional may then be engaged, with longer term treatments include counselling, nutrition education, medication and person-centred step-care. If the person with the disorder is young, then a family approach may be taken to engage family members on how they can provide support regarding the eating disorder.
|The Butterfly Foundation||The Butterfly Foundation National Helpline, 1800 33 4673, offers information and support for people suffering eating disorders.|
|InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders||The InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders|
is dedicated to improving the lives of people with eating disorders and those who care for them.
|Headspace||Headspace has a variety of resources available relating to eating disorders, particularly for young people and their families.|
Reviewed by Sarah Davies, registered psychologist.
 Deloitte Access Economics (2015). Investing in need: cost-effective interventions for eating disorders. Report commissioned for Butterfly Foundation. Sydney: Butterfly Foundation.