Eating Disorders – Does this help?

Eating Disorders


Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two main eating disorders prevalent in our society.  Others, like compulsive overeating, are much rarer.  People with anorexia restrict their food intake so much that they experience tremendous weight loss and eventual emaciation.  It is typical that a person with anorexia will never believe herself or himself to be thin enough.  There is desperate determination to never approach what is considered by others to be a normal size and weight.  About four out of ten people with anorexia will eventually make a full recovery. Only about three in ten continue to have major life long illness.  Untreated, fifteen per cent of suffers die, making anorexia the deadliest of the psychological disorders.


In bulimia there is not the iron will to completely exclude food that occurs in anorexia. Food intake is erratic and may include food binging.  Intense feelings of self-loathing, guilt and shame often follow compulsive over eating sessions.  Actions are taken to rid themselves of what has been consumed; vomiting, laxatives, drug use and excessive exercise are some of the forms this behaviour may take.  With bulimia an individual is rarely emaciated but still shares the extreme fear of weight gain that occurs in anorexia.


It is not easy to predict who will develop an eating disorder.  It is about ten times more common in females than males, reflecting society’s increased focus on the female form but incidence in men is rising.  Eating disorders are more common in teenagers and young adults, in those of above average IQ, in people with a family history of eating disorders and in those with controlling family units or traumatic childhoods.  They are also a great deal more common in societies where it is considered desirable to be thin.  In nearly all cases dieting and a low self body image precede fully established eating disorders


What can you do if you fear you or someone you know may have an eating disorder?  I suggest you get on the web, read all the excellent resources there are to be read on the subject and thus armed speak to your GP or counsellor about getting whatever help you need.  There are specialists in every town waiting to help you; all they need is for you to ask.


What to do if you are part of a culture that produces eating disorders?  I have some suggestions.  We can strive to understand what drives these behaviours.  We can reclaim the media.  We can stop the ever-critical eye that we pass over others and ourselves. We can de-stigmatise mental illnesses, discuss them, explore them and not be in fear them. 


By Liz



3 Responses to “Eating Disorders – Does this help?”

  1. oberon92 Says:

    In the last paragraph Liz links media reporting, mental health stigma, and negative appraisal of self and others to eating disorders. It would be interesting to receive comments on these three topics in relation to eating disorder from readers of any gender. orientation, or experience.

  2. DJ Says:

    I have two teenage daughters who both feel under pressure to be stick thin. They buy magazines aimed at young teenage girls which use ads depicting well known super thin models. As a parent this really concerns me. I believe that such magazines should be promoting healthy eating rather than suggest what body shape is the best (in their opinion). However, I have found that peer pressure can also be a factor. Neither of my children are over weight and yet so called friends have called one of them fat! It is time we started educating this younger generation and my very small way of fighting back is not buying the magazines in questions and reasurring my children that they are beautiful and loved whatever their shape or size!!

  3. Kathleen Clayton Says:

    This no longer me.

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