The term ‘eating disorder‘ covers a range of conditions linked to a persons eating habits and behaviour. Some conditions may involve overheating whilst others involve eating too little. These conditions all involve an abnormal attitude towards food and unhealthy choices that impact on a persons long term physical and psychological health and well-being, and can affect them socially too.
Three common eating disorders are:
- Binge eating or comfort eating, where someone feels a compulsion to eat far more than their body needs.
- Anorexia nervosa, where someone drastically restricts their food intake to keep their weight as low as possible.
- Bulimia, where someone tries to restrict their weight by binge eating, then vomiting or using laxatives to prevent natural digestion of the food.
The causes of eating disorders are many and varied. It is often believed that young people in particular can develop eating disorders because of peer pressure and the social pressure to be thin, but in reality this is only part of the picture and can be a simplistic way of looking at eating disorders. There is also evidence that controlling food intake and body weight can provide psychological comfort where a person is unable, or does not feel able, to exert control over other aspects of their lives.
Eating disorders often develop because of a particular experience, or social or environmental reason. These ‘triggers’ which initiate an eating disorder can range from stressful situations at work or college, being criticised or teased about body shape or weight, problems with relationships or abuse. Whatever the trigger might be, there are also biological or other risk factors which mean some individuals are more likely to develop long term eating disorders than others.