Health conditions

Eating disorders

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are a mental illness. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. They can affect females and males of all age groups, from a range of backgrounds and cultures. The most common age of onset is during adolescence.  Although eating disorders are a mental illness they often have significant physical complications and can be life threatening.

Risk factors

Dieting, depression, anxiety, trauma and body dissatisfaction are some of the risk factors for the onset of an eating disorder, but there is usually a combination of different factors.

The most common types of eating disorders are:

Signs and symptoms

  • Sudden or significant decrease in weight.
  • More preoccupied with eating, dieting, exercising related issues.
  • Binge eating (eating large amounts of food and feeling out of control).
  • Excessive exercising or vomiting after meals.
  • More importance placed on weight and shape in terms of how the person feels about themselves.

Other factors

Depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, food phobias and other psychiatric disorders are sometimes present with an eating disorder. It is important that these problems are also addressed.

Where can I get help?

Child and Adolescent Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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