What is an Eating Disorder?

As human beings we all need to eat to survive. However some eating behaviours can become problematic if we use food- or severely restricted our food intake- to help us to cope with difficult situations in our lives such as money or relationship problems, work stress, low self-esteem or as a means of gaining control when we feel we have lost control over ourselves or the world around us.

When we think of eating disorders it is easy to imagine a teenage girl who believes she is overweight while she is visibly emaciated, or we might think of a young lady who runs to the toilet to force herself to be sick after every meal to keep her weight down while she binges uncontrollably.

While in some cases these descriptions may be accurate; eating disorders come in many forms and can affect anyone. Male or female, younger or older, big or small, rich or poor. Eating disorders do not discriminate!

What is an Eating Disorder?

What are the symptoms?

Eating disorders come in many forms and each particular type is usually distinguished by the specific behaviour involved with it. Please see the individual sections on anorexia, bulimia, BED, exercise disorders, EDNOS and other eating disorders for a description of the main symptoms of each. However some general symptoms of eating disorders include:

  1. Preoccupation with body image including weight and/or shape
  2. Obsessive thoughts around food and eating
  3. Anxiety at mealtimes
  4. Low self-esteem
  5. Inability to concentrate
  6. Sleeping problems
  7. Desire to be isolated from social interaction
  8. Depressive or suicidal thoughts
  9. Aggressive or irritable behaviour
  10. Extreme weight loss or weight gain over short period of time

What are the causes?

It is a common perception that eating disorders are caused by a perfectionist personality and/or an obsessive desire to be thin fuelled by the portrayal of the 'perfect body' in the western media. While there is evidence to suggest that associations do exist between the media, perfectionism and disordered eating behaviour, these are by no means the only factors involved.

Eating disorders are not caused by any one factor and people who live with an eating disorder will often say that they cannot pinpoint any one particular factor or event that caused them to develop their eating disorder.

Research into eating disorders have suggested a range of associated factors, including genetic and other biological factors, psychological factors, factors associated with the environment in which the person grew up or lives in, and events that have occurred in the individual's life which may have triggered the behaviour.


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Laurence Trust TeamThe Laurence Trust is made up of a team of passionate people from a range of age groups and backgrounds, who share a dedication to supporting men with eating disorders and their loved ones.
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