What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are usually defined by a number of symptoms including some or all of the following: a fear and preoccupation with gaining weight, the use of compensatory behaviours in an attempt to lose weight, and distress and preoccupation with one’s weight and shape.

People who describe some or all of the following symptoms may be given a diagnosis that falls within the restrictive eating disorder group such as Anorexia Nervosa, Atypical Anorexia Nervosa or Eating Disorder Unspecified (dependent upon the frequency and intensity of symptoms):

  • A low Body Mass Index (BMI) – underweight (BMI between 17.6 – 19.9kg/m²) or within the anorexic weight range (BMI of 17.5kg/m² or below)
  • Attempt to maintain and / or achieve a low body weight by restricting food intake
  • Preoccupation and anxiety about food and eating
  • Having an intense fear of weight gain or becoming fat (even though underweight)
  • A negative body image or a distorted perception of your body and preoccupation with weight and shape
  • Engaging in efforts to maintain a low weight using other compensatory behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse and / or excessive exercise
  • Experiencing episodes of binge eating (eating an unusually large amount of food in a short space of time and feeling out of control when doing so)
  • Absence of periods in females
  • Reduced libido and/or absence of early morning erections in males

People who experience some or all of the following symptoms typically fall within the binge and purge eating disorder group such as Bulimia Nervosa, Atypical Bulimia Nervosa or Eating Disorder Unspecified (dependent on the frequency and intensity of symptoms). These include:

  • A normal or overweight BMI – normal (BMI 20 – 24.9kg/m²) or overweight (25kg/m² or above)
  • Engaging in efforts to achieve a lose weight and / or prevent weight gain by restricting your food intake
  • Binge eating - eating an unusually large amount of food in a short space of time (objectively bigger than what most people would eat), and feeling out of control when doing so)
  • Preoccupation and anxiety about with food and eating
  • Use of compensatory behaviours (to prevent weight gain) such as self-induced vomiting, excessive laxative use and / or excessive exercise
  • Body shape and weight concerns despite being with the normal or healthy body weight range
  • Feeling as though your self-worth is dependent on your weight/shape

Alternatively, some people have problems with binge eating without the use of compensatory behaviours which may meet the criteria for a Binge Eating Disorder diagnosis. In these instances people usually experience:

  • Regular episodes of binge eating - this means eating an unusually large amount of food in a short space of time (objectively bigger than what most people would eat), and feeling out of control when doing so
  • Marked distress about your binge eating
  • Often (but not always) accompanied with obesity.

Almost everyone at sometime or another overeats. Such episodes and feelings of discomfort are common and are not usually a source of concern. The important difference between overeating and binge eating is that binge eating is associated with significant feelings of loss of control and distress.

If you think that any of these disorders describe what you or someone else is currently struggling with, click here to see how you can access the service.

 

The page was last updated on 15 August 2017 by agrosbois.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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