About Eating Disorders

Gender, social and cultural influences impact everyone. Many individuals, carers, family and loved ones have had a preoccupation with food and weight to varying degrees in their lifetime. Not all eating disorders are categorised by weight loss, nor are all eating disorders related to body image. In fact, for many people, eating disorders are not about food or their body image, but develop as a way of coping with other influences in their life.

Additionally, although eating disorders are often portrayed in the media as an issue that only impacts young, white women, this could not be further from the truth. Eating Disorders can impact people from all walks of life - all genders, ages, sexualities, and cultural backgrounds.

At one end of the continuum we have healthy eating and acceptance of body shape and size. At the other end of the continuum is disordered eating, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge/compulsive eating.

In between sits fear of fatness, denial of appetite, emotional eating, exaggeration of body size, depression and rigid dieting.

Recovery from eating disorders is possible for anyone at any stage. Seeking support as early as possible is highly recommended.

Individuals, carers, family and loved ones can access services at Eating Disorders Queensland. You do not need a GP's referral or a formal diagnosis.

Eating Disorders Queensland sees individuals, carers, family and loved ones who identify with food restriction, binge-eating, purging, excessive exercise, or other unspecified eating issues. We work across the spectrum to support individuals, carers, family and loved ones to develop a healthy relationship with food and their bodies.

There are a number of recognised eating issues and disorders that over time individuals may move between, including:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious and potentially life-threatening mental illness. There are serious medical risks associated with Anorexia. Do not wait and see how things progress, connect with a health professional at the first sign of an issue.

Characterised by significant weight loss due to restriction of food or purging, distortion of body image, and intense fear of gaining weight.

Note that a person with Anorexia Nervosa may not appear to have a low body weight; but will be experiencing both physical and mental effects of anorexia.

There are two sub-types of Anorexia Nervosa -

Restricting Sub-type: Person will restrict intake through dieting and/or fasting, and may also engage in excessive exercise. No purging is undertaken.

Binge-eating/Purging Sub-type: Person engages in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behaviour, in addition to restriction of food.

Please note an assessment by a medical practitioner and regular medical monitoring is recommended as part of your treatment.
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Bulimia Nervosa

Identified as an eating disorder where the individual has recurrent episodes of binge eating.

This can be where they either (1) eat an amount of food that is larger than most people would eat in a discrete time period or (2) experience a sense of lack of control during the episode. The individual will often feel guilt/shame during or after the episode.

The individual then experiences recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour with the intention to prevent weight gain. Individuals may or may not purge. Individuals with Bulimia Nervosa often experience weight fluctuations, rather than weight loss. As a result, Bulimia can often go unnoticed for extended periods of time.

Please note an assessment by a medical practitioner and regular medical monitoring is recommended as part of your treatment.
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Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder involves frequent episodes of excessive eating without compensatory or purging behaviours. 

Bingeing produces changes in the reward pathways in the brain and can become compulsive. A person with Binge Eating Disorder might eat very quickly or even when they are not hungry. They will often eat even when they are full – to the point of feeling uncomfortable. This can occur at times of stress, anger, boredom, or distress as a way of coping with emotions. Binge eating is often accompanied by a sense of loss of control and, in many cases, weight gain.

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See more resources & reading here.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

The experience of being overly concerned with defects, either real or imagined, in a person’s appearance.

This occurs to the extent that the time spent thinking about or looking at their perceived defect interferes with daily functioning and can lead to avoiding social interactions.

A person experiencing BDD may be extremely critical of their mirror image, physique or self-image, even though there may be no noticeable disfigurement or defect. Those suffering from BDD most commonly feel critical of one of the following: their face, hair, skin and nose.

Though not fatal in and of itself, this disorder can result in serious distress and severe isolation and may co-occur with other mental health concerns.
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OSFED - Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders

A person with Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED) may present with many of the symptoms of other eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder but will not meet the full criteria for diagnosis of these disorders. Despite not meeting clinical diagnostic criteria, these eating disorders are just as serious and should be medically monitored. 

People with OSFED commonly present with extremely disturbed eating habits, and/or a distorted body image and/or overvaluation of shape and weight and/or an intense fear of gaining weight (if underweight). OSFED is the most common eating disorder diagnosed for adults as well as adolescents, and affects all genders.
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ARFID - Avoidant or Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

ARFID is persistent and severe. It can involve the restriction of both familiar and new foods. ARFID has significant physical and mental health consequences, and often has a marked impact on the affected individual's life.

ARFID is Similar to Anorexia Nervosa in that food intake is restricted. However, the reason for restriction is different. Unlike Anorexia, ARFID is not associated with concerns about weight/ shape/body size.  A person with ARFID may fear consequences of eating/feeding (such as choking, vomiting); avoid sensory characteristics such as smell, appearance, or texture; or display a lack of interest/pleasure in eating. Assessment by a medical practitioner should be sought at the first sign of an issue, frequently in childhood.

As with other eating disorders, people with ARFID can be across the weight spectrum. People with autism spectrum conditions, ADHD, intellectual disabilities, or anxiety conditions seem to be more likely to develop ARFID, as well as children with severe picky eating, or who don't outgrow picky eating. ARFID differs from picky or fussy eating, which is common in childhood and generally resolves over time. ARFID can result in an extremely limited variety and volume of food within a person’s daily, resulting in a lack of adequate nutrition which can cause a person to become seriously ill. Individuals may go on to develop other Eating Disorders.

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