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What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a very serious and potentially life-threatening mental illness. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder (boys, girls, young people, older people). Some eating disorders can make people think that they need to lose lots of weight, when they really don’t at all. Others can cause individuals to over-eat or obsess over food.

There are three main types of eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa – Restrictive


Anorexia causes people to severely restrict their food intake, and become increasingly fearful of gaining weight, often believing themselves to be a shape totally different to how they actually appear. This is a really serious condition which can lead to hospitalisation.

Bulimia – binging/purging

Bulimia is an eating disorder which involves individuals binging, which means they will eat a huge amount of food within a short space of time (for instance 2 hours), followed by purging behaviours – which may mean excessive amounts of exercise or even throwing up. This condition can have very harmful effects on someone’s mental and physical health.

Binge-Eating Disorder – binging


Binge-eating disorder causes people to overeat in short space of time, on a regular basis. Often people with this condition will eat large amounts of food in secret, causing them to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their behaviour. Binge-eating disorder usually is linked to other mental health issues like poor self-esteem, negative body image, anxiety or depression.

Is it possible to recover from an eating disorder?


Yes. However, it can be really hard to take those first steps and seek professional treatment. Feelings of shame, embarrassment or fear can prevent a person with an eating disorder from seeking help. Realising that there is an issue, can also be hard. Sometimes people can make themselves believe that everything is under control or that there isn’t a problem.

Click here to read more about recovering from an eating disorder:
Recovering from an Eating Disorder by Julia Stuart

“The truth is, seeking help as early as possible greatly reduces the severity, duration and impact of an eating disorder. Seeking help at the first warning sign is much more effective than waiting until the illness is in full swing.” – National Eating Disorders Collaboration

To overcome an eating disorder, it’s important to have the situation assessed by a trained professional. Your family doctor can be a great start. There are also lots of trained medical staff, who specialise in this area.

Getting help


If you think that you or someone you know might be suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help straight away. Visit the National Eating Disorder Collaboration website for more information on help in your local area.

Click here for a list of Support Services.