Healthy Mind

Eating disorders: the facts you may not know

“Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health,” according to the HSE (Health Services Executive) website.

All of the eating disorders are as dangerous and difficult to face as the next. Each one affects the individual psychologically and can have serious physical results. If there is anyone you know struggling with an eating disorder please contact any of the helplines listed at the end of this article.

Bulimia, Anorexia Nervosa and over eating are more of the commonly known eating disorders. Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is a type of eating disorder that combines a variety of traits from other disorders without actually tailored specifically to one. Surprisingly, EDNOS makes up fifty per cent of all eating disorders. It is important to be able to distinguish between eating disorders, as it is easy to mistake one for another, especially since the subject has only been brought to public attention in recent years. This is certainly applicable to EDNOS when a doctor’s diagnostic manuals can misread the criteria his patient presents to him.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is one of the most recently discovered eating disorders. It is also known as Selective Eating Disorder (SED). The least amount of study has been carried out on ARFID however it can develop during childhood up until adult hood. Defining characteristics include restricting the amount you eat to the point you either lose or gain weight. This can have serious consequences such as; anxiety, selective eating and can lead to a person needing to be tube fed. While bulimia and anorexia are more commonly reported, ARFID tends to be less reported making it the eating disorder to pay particular attention to.

Females are mistaken for being the more common gender affected by eating disorders. This is both untrue and can make it more difficult for men to speak out with this intimidating generalization in place.   Each person, male or female, child or adult, can be affected by any of these issues and it is important to remember that nobody is exempt. However, where women may be more likely to under eat to lose weight, men on the other hand are likely to over exercise to increase muscle weight. There are many dangers attached to this sort of behaviour such as frequent physical injuries, irritability and undernourishment.

When practicing a healthy fitness lifestyle, the next important thing to exercising is eating healthily in order to achieve results. Other concerns for men that can lead to eating disorders are being bullied for their weight, a history of bad dieting and commitment to a sport, activity or profession that demands a light build such as running or modeling. This last point can also be applicable to women, making it an issue amongst everyone susceptible to an eating disorder.

Bulimia and Anorexia are the most commonly known disorders, it is important to remember these are no less dangerous than the others mentioned. In fact they require just as much attention considering the high rates in Ireland. Bulimia sufferers binge eat before purging themselves by vomiting with or without the use of laxatives. Women are ten times more likely than men to develop bulimia, according to, however this does not mean that bulimia is restricted to females.

Anorexia Nervosa can be described as having anxiety about eating, restricting what you eat and perhaps over-exercising to lose weight. This issue usually stems from low self-esteem and body image. Anorexia Nervosa is more commonly found among teenagers, with one in every two hundred women affected.

Other triggers include examinations and work, meaning students are a huge target for eating disorders. Pressure, stress, expectations and lack of support all contribute to low self-esteem. Listen to your student unions, take their advice and help when offered around exam times. It is an extremely stressful time where you are pressured to perform well. So eat well, eat healthily and remember to take time to relax. The most important thing of all is to sleep. If you are insomniac, sleep all day and work at night. Whatever works, do it and in a healthy way.

Help and support is available for eating disorder related problems. Counselors and psychologists are available at every college with free services to attend to those who need help or know someone who needs help. Avail of these professionals and talk. As always everything you say is completely confidential. I have compiled a small list for consideration, if not now, save the number on your phone for later.

Photo: madsteetz/ Flickr