Eating disorders are conditions where individuals are obsessed with food, eating and their body size. This obsession takes over their everyday behaviours and daily thoughts. Individuals with eating disorders use unhealthy behaviours to try to gain control over their lives.
Here are some statistics on eating disorders:
- According to a 2002 survey, 1.5% of Canadian women aged 15–24 years had an eating disorder.
- According this same survey, 28% of girls in grade nine and 29% in grade ten engaged in weight-loss behaviours and disordered eating behaviours.
- Eating disorders rank as the third most common chronic illness in adolescent females (Canadian Pediatric Society).
Binge-eating disorder involves two key features:
- Eating a very large amount of food within a relatively short period of time (for example within two hours)
- Feeling a sense of loss of control while eating (e.g. feeling unable to stop yourself from eating)
Binge-eating disorder is characterised by regular episodes of compulsive eating. Unlike bulimia, a person with binge-eating disorder will not use compensatory behaviours, such as self-induced vomiting or over-exercising after compulsive eating. Many people with binge-eating disorder are overweight or obese.
People with binge-eating disorder often feel guilty or ashamed about the amount, and the way they eat during a binge-eating episode.
Professional support and treatment from healthcare professionals specializing in the treatment of binge eating disorders, including psychologists, nutritionists, and doctors, can be the most effective way to address binge eating disorder.
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours. In addition, people with bulimia place an excessive emphasis on body shape or weight in their self-evaluation. This can lead to the person’s sense of self-esteem and self worth being defined by the way they look.
A person with bulimia can become lost in a dangerous cycle of eating out of control and attempts to compensate which can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and disgust. These behaviors can become more compulsive and uncontrollable over time, and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about eating (or not eating), weight loss, dieting and body image.
These behaviours are often concealed and people with bulimia can go to great lengths to keep their eating and exercise habits secret. As a result, this type of eating disorder can often go undetected for a long period of time.
What are compensatory behaviours?
- Misusing laxatives or diuretics
- Excessive exercise
- Use of any drugs, illicit, prescription and/or “over the counter? inappropriately for weight control (inappropriate use refers to use that is not indicated and for which the drug has not been prescribed).
Anorexia Nervosa is characterised by persistent energy intake restriction, intense fear of gaining weight and disturbance in self perceived weight or shape. For some people, restricting their food and weight can be a way of controlling areas of life that feel out of their control and their body image can come to define their entire sense of self worth.
A person with AN is unable to maintain what is considered to be a normal and healthy weight. They could also have lost a considerable amount of weight in a short period of time.
Even when people with AN are underweight, starved or malnourished they still possess an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight.
There are two types of anorexia nervosa
1. Restricting type
People with this type of anorexia place severe restrictions on the amont and type of food they consume. This can manifest in different ways including some or all of the following:
- Restricting certain food groups (e.g. carbohydrates, fats)
- Counting calories
- Skipping meals
2. Binge-eating/Purging type
People with this type of anorexia place severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they consume. In addition, the person will engage in binge-eating and display purging behaviour such as self-induced vomiting, or laxatives to compensate for eating food.
- National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), http://www.nedic.ca/know-facts/statistics
- Government of Canada. (2006). The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada 2006.