Health A to Z

Eating disorders

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Learn more about their causes with this guide.

Eating disorders causes treatment symptoms

Eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits, such as extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme concern about body weight. The Canadian Mental Health Association lists three chronic eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. Women are more likely than men to have eating disorders, which typically begin in adolescence and often occur along with depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, with 10 to 20 percent of sufferers eventually dying from complications.

Eating disorder causes Eating disorders are complex conditions that may be a way of coping with deeper problems and emotions.

Eating disorder symptoms There may be no obvious symptoms, or symptoms may include low self-esteem; social withdrawal; claims of feeling fat when weight is normal or low; preoccupation with food, weight, counting calories; and denial of an illness.

Eating disorder diagnosis/tests If you think you have an eating disorder, or your doctor suspects that you do, she will conduct a physical examination to check your vital signs. She may order blood tests to check your complete blood count (CBC), electrolytes and protein and possibly X-rays to check for heart problems or broken bones. Diagnosis of an eating disorder also includes a psychological assessment of your eating habits, body image and behaviour. If you are found to have an eating disorder, you’ll need help to deal with it.

Eating disorder treatment Eating disorders are treatable. Depending on the disorder, treatment may include medication, such as antidepressants, nutritional guidance, support and counseling.

Eating disorder prevention There is no known way to prevent eating disorders. But getting help early may help prevent the long-term health consequences that result from anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.

More info from Chatelaine
Modern times: Eat, love, pray it all works out

Outside resources
National Eating Disorder Information Centre