Eating disorders

Eating Disorders: The Signs, Symptoms and Treatments


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Written by Talked Team

30 Dec, 2021

An eating disorder is a terrifying thing to go through, whether you are witnessing it or dealing with it yourself. Eating disorders are often characterised by obsessions over food, weight, or appearance or anxiety surrounding food. These obsessions and anxieties over food will negatively affect the person's mental, physical, and social health as they participate in activities like extreme diets, binging, purging, or avoiding certain foods.

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a behavioural condition that affects one's thoughts and emotions around eating and is characterised by a very serious and persistent disturbance in one's eating habits. An eating disorder can cause severe turmoil in a person's physical, psychological, and social health. Eating disorders most commonly affect women and occur in adolescence and young adulthood, though they can occur in anyone, of any gender, at any age.

Eating disorders most commonly affect women and occur in adolescence and young adulthood, though they can occur in anyone, of any gender, at any age.

The Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often occur alongside other mental health disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder, mood disorders, or substance abuse issues. There are several different types of eating disorders, with the three most well-known eating disorders including:

Anorexia Nervosa

a type of eating disorder that is characterised by extreme weight-loss and self-starvation that often results in excessively low weight. This type of eating disorder is extremely dangerous and has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric disorders. It can cause many different life-threatening conditions, including issues with heart health, kidney problems, and seizures.

A person suffering from anorexia nervosa will typically fall under one of two forms of self-starvation: restricting, in which the person participates in extreme diets, fasting, or exercise; or binge-eating to purging, in which the person eats a large amount of food within a certain time frame then purges it through the use of vomiting or laxatives. Some symptoms of anorexia nervosa are:

  • Loss of a period

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Weak and brittle hair and nails

  • Constantly feeling cold

  • Weakness

  • Heartburn or acid reflux

  • Extreme constipation or bloating after eating

  • Injuries caused by excessive exercise

  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety

  • Fatigue and feeling lethargic

  • Irritability

  • Clouded mind, lack of concentration, confusion

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Bulimia Nervosa

Those who suffer from bulimia nervosa typically follow extreme diets until a certain time period in which they eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time. As the person binges, they typically feel out of control and struggle to make conscious decisions over how much and what they eat. The person often keeps their binging a secret and feels ashamed or embarrassed.

Bulimia nervosa can be life-threatening in severe cases, leading to health issues like heart issues and oesophageal tears.

When someone is suffering from bulimia nervosa, they typically binge every week and try to make up for it through extreme dieting or fasting, purging, or excess exercise. A person who suffers from bulimia nervosa will typically obsess over things like body image, food, or their weight. People of all genders, ages, and body weight can be suffering from bulimia nervosa, though it is typically considered anorexia nervosa, under the binge-eating to purging category if one is excessively underweight. Bulimia nervosa can be hard to catch as most of the person's behaviours are done in secret, but there are some symptoms you can watch out for. Possible symptoms of bulimia nervosa are:

  • Frequent bathroom trips after a meal

  • A large amount of food suddenly disappearing

  • Constant suffering from a sore throat

  • Dental issues

  • Salivary gland swelling within the cheeks

  • Constant heartburn or acid reflux

  • The misuse of laxatives, water pills (diuretics), or dieting pills

  • Unexplainable diarrhoea

  • Feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting

Binge Eating Disorder

Those who suffer from a binge eating disorder will often consume a large amount of food within a short period of time, feeling as though they have no control over what or how much food they eat. Those suffering from a binge eating disorder can end up suffering from health complications such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The symptoms for binge eating disorder occur weekly for at least three months and typically include symptoms such as:

  • Eating large amounts of foods in a short period of time

  • Eating beyond the point of fullness

  • Eating despite not feeling hungry

  • Refusal to eat around other people

  • Feelings of guilt, depression, or disgust with oneself

Helping a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Watching somebody you care about suffer from an eating disorder is tough. It can be heartbreaking to watch as your loved one harms themselves through their eating habits. You may feel frustrated, upset, and angry thinking that there is an easy fix to the eating disorder: thinking all they need to do is eat right. The thing is, though, eating disorders do not have a solution as simple as "eating right". Eating disorders do not only affect one's physical health, but their mental and emotional health, as well.

Find a counsellor or psychologist who can help you with your eating disorder

Eating disorders are typically accompanied by a negative attitude about one's weight, appearance, food, and body image. This negative attitude is what is typically fuelling the person's disordered eating habits. While you cannot force a person to seek the help necessary to improve their mental and physical health, you can offer them support and encourage them to seek treatment.

If you believe somebody may be suffering from an eating disorder, approach the subject gently, as bombarding them with accusations and warnings are not likely to work. Speak to them at a good time, in private, with no distractions; communicate your concerns in a non-critical manner; don't take denial and defensiveness personally; ask if there are reasons they may want to seek help; and remain as patient and supportive with them as possible, remembering that they are in a vulnerable position.

How We Can Help

If you are suffering from negative feelings and attitudes toward eating, your self-image, or food, know that you are not alone.

Eating disorders can negatively impact your quality of life, so it is imperative that you seek treatment right away. We have mental health practitioners who specialise in helping people with eating disorders and are available right now, book a free consultation today.

Eating Disorders Therapists Available Now

Nina Vucetic


186 Sessions




186 Sessions

Hi, I'm Nina. I am a trauma-informed relational psychotherapist specialising in substance issues, eating disorders, relationships, and trauma. I provide a safe place to e...More

Mona Mattar


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120 Sessions

I am an experienced Clinical Counsellor and Psychotherapist working in private hospital settings and private practice with a special interest in eating disorders, substan...More

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