What are eating disorders?
An eating disorder is when a person’s eating habits and relationship with food becomes difficult. Eating problems can disrupt how a person eats food and absorbs nutrients, which affects physical health, but can also be detrimental both emotionally and socially.
The three most common eating disorders are:
- Anorexia nervosa (restricted food intake and/or excessive exercise)
- Bulimia nervosa (binge eating followed by deliberate purging)
- Binge-eating disorder (BED) (episodes of overeating in a short space of time)
Eating disorders often occur alongside other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance misuse disorders.
There is no single reason why someone may develop an eating disorder - it can be the result of a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological factors. While they can be very serious mental health conditions they are also treatable and, although it may take a long time, full recovery is possible.
Treatment normally consists of monitoring a person’s physical health while addressing the underlying psychological problems with psychological therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or family therapy. Medication such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used to treat bulimia nervosa or binge eating.