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  “Why can’t you just eat more?” “Why can you stop eating?” Eating too much, eating too little, eating to cope with emotional disturbances, and inducing vomiting after eating, all these are forms of eating disorders.
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Eating disorders are a deeply personal mental health struggle that affects individuals on a profound level. It encompasses a range of abnormal eating habits, attitudes, and behaviours, that affect the individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Those facing these disorders often find themselves consumed by thoughts of food, body image, and weight, leading to a relentless cycle of unhealthy eating patterns, excessive exercise, or purging. Eating disorders as a mental health issue are under-discussed as a large number of people, particularly young people and women in general, will suffer from an eating disorder at least once in their lifetime.

Types of Eating Disorders

The typically eating disorders include:
  1. Anorexia Nervosa
  2. Bulimia Nervosa
  3. Binge Eating Disorder
  4. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Anorexia nervosa (also called anorexia) is a psychological and eating disorder characterized by food restrictions, body image disturbances, and an irrational fear of becoming overweight. Individuals with bulimia nervosa suffer from binge eating followed by inducing vomiting, the use of laxatives, excessive fasting, or excessive exercise to avoid gaining weight. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) manifests as chronic, compulsive overeating with a feeling of loss of control. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by the avoidance of certain foods or food groups. This leads to malnutrition and a lack of development, particularly detrimental in children.

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

  • Body shaming culture
  • Family history of eating disorders
  • Dieting
  • Stress
  • Other mental health/psychological struggles
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unrealistic body expectations
  • Negative body image
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Childhood obesity
  • History of trauma eg bullying

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Signs/Symptoms and Effects

  • Dieting and calorie counting
  • Food hoarding
  • Secretive eating
  • Excessive exercise
  • Picky eating
  • Weight changes
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Complain of constipation
  • Meal time anxiety
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Thinning hair
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor immune system
  • Brittle nails
  • Poor wound healing
Over time, eating disorders affect physical, mental, and emotional health. They lead to chronic malnutrition and extreme weight loss or gain, feelings of shame and guilt, increased anxiety, social isolation, and an elevated risk of mortality.

Seeking Help

Seeking help for any form of mental or psychological disorder has never been easy, as these conditions have been associated with various stigmas and stereotypes. However, mental health and psychological conditions are no less of a medical condition than physical ailments. People who suffer from any type or combination of eating disorders may choose to seek help and support from family and friends, or they may choose to seek professional medical help.


  1. Medication: eg antidepressants and medications to manage other concurrent physical and mental conditions.
  2. Individual, group or family psychotherapy.
  3. Nutritional counselling.
  4. Hospitalisation may be needed.

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Overcoming eating disorders is a challenging journey, and the path to recovery can feel daunting. Individuals should acknowledge that recovery is achievable, while those who haven’t experienced such struggles should be prepared to extend their support to those in need.
Sources: Healthline|| Mayoclinic
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This article was first published on 3rd April 2024


I am a passionate health writer. Recognizing the lack of comprehensive health knowledge among my non-medical peers, I took to health writing to provide scientifically sound and easily understandable health information.

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