Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.
Eating disorders are often blamed on the social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. However, the causes are usually more complex.
There may be some biological or influencing factors, combined with an experience that may provoke the disorder, plus other factors that encourage the condition to continue.
Although eating disorders tend to be more common in certain age groups, it is not uncommon for eating disorders to affect people of any age.
Types of Eating Disorder
The most common eating disorders are:
• anorexia nervosa – when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible, for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively
• bulimia – when someone tries to control their weight by binge eating and then deliberately being sick or using laxatives (medication to help empty their bowels)
• binge eating – when someone feels compelled to overeat