Types

What are Eating Disorders?

An eating disorder is a mental health illness affecting a person’s eating and exercise behaviours and altering their thoughts and feelings about body weight or shape, food and self-worth. Eating Disorders are serious and impact the person’s life including school, work, emotional distress, relationships and physical health. It’s estimated that one million Australians have an eating disorder at any one time, and this number is rising, with children, males and older adults being affected in increasing numbers.

Health professionals use a system called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to describe four eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa

To receive a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa the following features need to be present:

  • Persistent restriction of energy intake leading to significantly low body weight (in context of what is minimally expected for age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health)
  • Either an intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behaviour that interferes with weight gain (even though significantly low weight)
  • Disturbance in the way one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body shape and weight on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

Bulimia Nervosa

To receive a diagnosis of Bulimia Nervosa the following features need to be present:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following: 1). Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g. within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances. 2). A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.
  • The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months
  • Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
  • The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of Anorexia Nervosa.

Binge Eating Disorder

To receive a diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder the following features need to be present:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following: 1). Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g. within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances. 2). A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
  • The binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
    ◦   eating much more rapidly than normal
    ◦   eating until feeling uncomfortably full
    ◦   eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
    ◦   eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
    ◦   feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty afterward
  • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present
  • Binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months
  • Binge is eating not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviours as in Bulimia Nervosa and does not occur exclusively during the course of Bulimia Nervosa, or Anorexia Nervosa methods to compensate for overeating, such as self-induced vomiting.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

To receive a diagnosis of OSFED a person must have feeding or eating behaviours causing significant distress and impairment and not meet criteria for another feeding and eating disorders. OSFED is as serious as any of the other eating disorders in terms of physical impact and psychological distress.
Eating Disorders are best understood as overlapping, as many people start with one diagnosis and over time develop into others before recovery is established. It does not matter what you choose to call your experience, and it is important to keep diagnoses in perspective and remember that every person experiencing an eating disorder is unique and therefore their experience of an eating disorder will vary from others.  All eating disorders are serious mental health illnesses and not life style choices or phases that people grow out of. Eating Disorders do not discriminate and affect people from all walks of life.

 

Building an alliance of individuals, family and health professionals to improve the lives of those affected by eating disorders