About Eating Disorders
What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are complex and serious conditions that affect people from a variety of ages and backgrounds. They have a serious physical and emotional impact and may be life threatening in some cases. Eating disorders (EDs) are serious mental illnesses with significant, life threatening medical and psychiatric morbidity and mortality, regardless of an individual’s weight. Anorexia Nervosa (AN), in particular, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Risk of premature death is 6-12 times higher in women with AN as compared to the general population, adjusting for age.
Eating disorders may arise from a variety of different causes and while they sometimes begin with a preoccupation with food and weight they are often about much more than food.
All eating disorders require specialist professional treatment. The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.
Important Facts about Eating Disorders
• Eating disorders are serious disorders with life-threatening physical and psychological complications.
• In addition to girls and women, EDs can affect boys and men; children, adolescents and adults; people from all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds; and people with a variety of body shapes, weights and sizes.
• Weight is not the only clinical marker of an ED. People who are at normal weight can have EDs.
• It is important to remember that EDs do not only affect females at low weight. All instances of precipitous weight loss in otherwise healthy individuals should be investigated for the possibility of an ED. In addition, rapid weight gain or weight fluctuations can be a potential marker of an ED.
• Individuals at weights above their natural weight range may not be getting proper nutrition and patients within their natural weight range may be engaging in unhealthy weight control practices.
• In children and adolescents, failure to gain expected weight or height, and/or delayed/interrupted pubertal development, should be investigated for the possibility of an ED.
• The medical consequences of EDs can go unrecognized, even by experienced clinicians.
• Eating disorders can be associated with serious medical complications. Eating disorders can be associated with significant compromise in every organ system of the body, including the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, dermatological, haematological, skeletal, and central nervous system.