A person has an Eating Disorder when their attitudes to food,
weight, body shape or size become excessive and lead to changes in
their eating and exercise habits to a degree that is harmful to
their health and well being.
Signs of Eating Disorders can include:
- Excessive dieting or overeating
- Thinking and talking about body appearance, weight and
- Avoidance of social situations involving food
- Becoming irritable and/or withdrawing from friends and
- Wearing loose fitting clothing to hide weight loss
- Wanting to eat alone
- Playing with food
- Exercising often
- Going to the bathroom after meals
- Difficulty concentrating
Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and a
general class of eating disorders called Eating Disorder Not
Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) (which includes binge eating
Eating disorders can have significant physical and emotional
effects. People with eating disorders can have reductions in
cognitive function, emotional changes and may stop participating in
their normal activities of daily life (1),
and young people with eating disorders are over ten times more
likely to die prematurely than their peers without an eating
disorder (2-4). This increased risk
includes increased risk of suicide (5) and
serious physical health issues arising from effects of bingeing,
purging and starvation on the body's organs and metabolism. Eating
disorders are among the most common mental disorders for which
young women receive hospital treatment in Australia (6).
Burden and onset of eating disorders
Eating disorders are common in young people, especially in female
adolescents and young women, although males can also be affected (7-9). In the general population 7 percent of
boys and 13 percent of girls report some sort of disordered eating
The beginning of adolescence and the late teens are peak periods
for people with eating disorders to experience their first
symptoms, although eating disorders may first occur at any age (11-17). In young women, the average age at
which anorexia nervosa first appears is 19 years of age (with a
range of 14- 28 years of age) and bulimia 20 years (range of
Binge eating disorder is more likely to begin at older ages (at
around 25 years of age)(18). Eating
disorders generally begin later in males than in females.
The most common category of eating disorder - as it includes a
wide range of different types of disordered eating, weight loss and
body image problems - is EDNOS (20). For
females, across a lifetime, around 2.5 to 4.5 percent of women
experience binge eating disorder, around 2.0 percent bulimia
nervosa, and around 1.5 percent experience anorexia nervosa. In
men, these rates are lower, with 1-3 percent of men experiencing
binge eating, around 1.0 percent bulimia nervosa and around 0.5
percent anorexia nervosa at some point in their lives (13, 21).
It is common for eating disorders to co occur with other mental
health and substance use disorders. These can include anxiety and
depression (22); substance abuse (especially
with bulimia); and personality disorders such as
obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (23). Eating disorders that co-occur with other
mental health disorders typically have poorer outcomes than those
without co morbid conditions.
Relatively little is known about the risk factors for eating
disorders. Possible risk factors include (11, 24, 25):
- Being female
- Body image concerns
- Adolescence and early adulthood
- Genetic vulnerability and family history
- Certain occupations
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J, et al. Early onset anorexia nervosa. Arch Dis Child.
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