Most of us have been unhappy with our bodies or our weight at some part of our lives. This is typically influenced by different factors including the media, social media, friend groups, even eating behaviours in the home. We are constantly being exposed to messages about “beauty standards” or how to change how we look. These messages can have a detrimental impact on mental health and a serious consequence of this are eating disorders.
Eating disorders are unfortunately prevalent in today’s society. Studies have found that every year, there are around 1 million Australian (4% of the population) who are experiencing an eating disorder and even more people are experiencing disordered eating. Typically, eating disorders emerge in adolescence and research has indicated that approximately a third of all adolescents engage in disordered eating.
Disordered eating includes eating disorder consistent behaviour including restricting food and calorie intake, binge eating, vomiting, laxative/diuretic use or increased exercise used to change weight but together does not meet diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder. Whether someone has an eating disorder and disordered eating, people with these issues also commonly experience depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and poor body image which in combination interfere with important areas of life such as school, work, and relationships.
There are some behaviour changes that you can look out for which may indicate yourself or loved one may be experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating. These include changing food preferences (e.g., becoming a vegetarian or vegan), skipping meals, leaving the table soon after eating, wearing baggy clothes, compulsively exercising, taking an increased interest in food and cooking, developing food rituals, obsession around counting calories, frequently checking weight, hoarding or sneaking food, emotional eating, self-isolation and avoidance of social events. You also may notice that a person struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating looks tired, pale, bruises easily, has swollen throat glands, has fluctuations in weight and may complain of stomach aches, headaches, sore throat, and dizziness.
Thankfully, disordered eating and eating disorders can be treated with a range of treatment modalities such as CBT-E and family-based therapy and early intervention tends to lead to better prognosis for recovery. If you feel yourself or someone you care about needs support, please call or email our friendly team at Sydney Psych Hub to make an appointment.