Food and weight preoccupations occur on a “continuum” of behaviours, from worrying about body shape and what we eat at one end, to medically serious and clinically diagnosed eating disorders at the other end. Left untreated, eating disorders have a high risk of mental and physical illnesses that can become life threatening.
Our focus on clinical eating disorders includes:
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Binge-Eating Disorder (BED)
Although the most common age of onset is between 14 and 25 years of age, the disorders occur in a wide age range and are increasingly seen in children as young as 10.
In terms of occurrence, binge-eating disorder (or compulsive over eating) is the most common, followed by bulimia, and anorexia is the least common.
It is estimated that 3% of women will be affected by eating disorders in their lifetime. Men and boys can also have unhealthy eating patterns and eating disorders, the same illness, although experienced more by women. Estimations give one male for every 20 females with anorexia and one male for every 10 females with bulimia. Research has shown that men who experience social pressures in relation to personal identities or bodies, such as athletes, men in the entertainment industries, and gay or trans-gendered men, are more vulnerable to disordered eating, as well as those who over-exercise or diet. Boys and men may be misdiagnosed or more reluctant to seek help, as many support groups and treatment programs are accessed almost exclusively by women.
People can and do recover from eating disorders but professional help is almost always required. The longer that symptoms are denied or ignored, the more difficult the recovery will be. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia eating disorders are often symptomatic of other mental health problems.