A person has an eating disorder when their attitudes to food, weight, body size or shape lead to marked changes in their eating or exercise behaviours, which interfere with their life and relationships. Eating and exercise behaviours that people with eating disorders may engage in include: dieting, fasting, overexercising, using slimming pills, diuretics, laxatives, vomiting, or binge eating (consumption of an unusually large amount of food accompanied by a sense of loss of control).
Eating disorders are not just about food and weight. They are also not about vanity or will-power. Eating disorders are serious and potentially life threatening mental illnesses, in which a person experiences severe disturbances in eating and exercise behaviours because of distortions in thoughts and emotions, especially those relating to body image or feelings of self-worth. People in all age groups, genders and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds can be affected by eating disorders. A person with an eating disorder can be underweight, within a healthy weight range, or overweight.
Approaching someone who may have an eating disorder
Your aim should be to provide support for the person so that they feel safe and secure enough to seek treatment or to find someone else they can trust to talk to openly, such as a family
member, friend, teacher or co-worker. Before you approach the person, learn as much as you can about eating disorders. Do this by reading books, articles and brochures, or gathering information from a reliable source, such as an eating disorder support organisation or a health professional experienced in treating them.
(Reference: Mental Health First Aid Australia)
For more information see:
The Butterfly Foundation: