What Are Eating Disorders?
How we feel about food and our relationship with our bodies can be difficult to discuss. When someone develops unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviours towards food and body image, this may be a sign of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are mental illnesses associated with food, weight, and appearance, but are often much more complex.
These are some of the most common types of eating disorders:
People with anorexia have trouble with maintaining a balanced weight for their health and will use restricting behaviours such as restricting food, limiting how much or little they eat, intense exercise, self-induced vomiting and/or misuse of medication. They usually have an intense fear of gaining weight, even if they know that they are underweight, or overestimate their body size and evaluate themselves negatively.
People with bulimia go through periods of eating large amounts of food in a short period time that can make them feel out of control (binge eating) and restrictive behaviours by "purging" the food out of the body such as vomiting, exercise or medication.
Binge eating disorder
People who binge eat have a repeating pattern of eating large amounts of food and is followed by feelings of shame, distress or guilt. The binge eating pattern is not followed by purging behaviours.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
A large number of factors including a combination of biological, social, genetic, and psychological factors play a role in increasing the risk of eating disorders.
Cultural, social, familial and emotional pressures
Personality disorders, genetics and biological factors
Abuse or trauma
Taking part in a sport or activity that puts a lot of emphasis on weight or size
What Are The Signs & Symptoms?
Distorted sense of body image
Dizziness and/or fainting
Weight loss and extreme thinness
Makes excuses to avoid meals or restrict eating
Swollen cheeks and jaw
Guilt around eating
Sensitivity or pain in teeth
Purging after eating meals
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
Eating large amounts of food in a short period of time
Feeling guilty about eating
Loss of control over how much is eaten
Feeling disgusted and depressed
Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
How Can I Support Someone With An Eating Disorder?
Educate yourself about eating disorders and the resources available
Find time to talk in a comfortable environment and focus on their feelings and behaviours. Point out specific things you have noticed and give examples.
Ask them what kind of support would be most helpful for them and listen to what they have to say, while showing that you care about their health.
Prepare yourself for hesitation or resistance. Be patient and validate that reaching out for help can be difficult. Help them find reasons to seek help and communicate with them without judgement.
What Can I Do To Help?
Find people you trust to help you feel supported in recovery and surround yourself with people who encourage you to stay healthy
Identify your triggers and think about plans to deal with them
Learn to listen to your body. - eat based on your needs, rather than from emotions or pressure
Notice the way you speak to yourself about your food, body, or behaviours. Begin to shift the way you talk about yourself, as if you were a friend.
It is always best to talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you might have. This page should not be used as a resource to self-diagnose.
1. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
Eating Disorders Infographics & Tip Sheets
Click one of the topics below to download and print our sheets or click here to view more of our infographics.