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About Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental health illnesses. They are not a phase, a diet gone too far, a cry for attention or a "lifestyle choice".

What are Eating Disorders

The development of an eating disorder is multifactorial.

Eating disorders are mental disorders that are serious and potentially life threatening.

Eating disorders are defined by changes in behaviours, thoughts and attitudes to food, eating, weight or body shape that interfere and detrimentally impact upon an individual’s life.

Eating disorders can have a negative impact on the individual’s life physically, emotionally, occupationally and socially.

Eating disorders are often comorbid with other mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.

Eating disorders are often a way of dealing with underlying personal, emotional and psychological difficulties.

Eating disorders can be experienced by the person as helping them to function by numbing their emotions, providing distraction or a sense of accomplishment, helping them to feel in control, and can form a part of a person’s sense of who they are.

The Statistics

~1 million

Australians are living with an eating disorder, that is 4% of the population. The Butterfly Foundation (2012) “Paying the Price; the economic and social impact of eating disorders”

  • ~25 000

    Australians are currently living with Anorexia Nervosa

  • ~100 000

    Australians are currently living with Bulimia Nervosa

  • ~500 000

    Australians are currently living with Binge Eating Disorder

  • ~350 000

    Australians are currently living with other forms of eating disorders

Eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness.


across Australia are estimated to die from Anorexia nervosa every year


across Australia with Anorexia nervosa are expected to die from suicide each year


across Australia are expected to die from Bulimia nervosa every year

Symptoms of an eating disorder involve obsessive control of food, weight and body shape, in an attempt to manage feelings or underlying psychological difficulties. However, these behaviours result in just the opposite: feelings of hopelessness and self-loathing.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are classified into different types, depending on the symptoms of the illness and how often these occur. However, it is important to note that symptoms can vary and people can move from one diagnosis to another.

  • Anorexia Nervosa

    is characterised by extreme food restriction, significant weight loss and an intense fear of gaining weight.

  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

    is characterised by an eating problem (such as avoidance of sensory characteristics of food, lack of appetite, concern about aversive consequence of eating) that results in failure to meet nutritional and/or energy requirements.

  • Binge Eating Disorder

    is characterised by repeated episodes of binge eating, without the use of purging or other compensatory measures.

  • Bulimia Nervosa

    is characterised by episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours, which are intended to prevent weight gain.

  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder

    is a term used to describe an eating disorder that significantly impacts the individual’s life, but does not meet full criteria for one of the other eating disorder diagnoses.

  • PICA

    is characterised by persistent eating of non-nutritive, non-food substances.

  • Rumination Disorder

    is characterised by repeated regurgitation of food that is re-chewed, re-swallowed or spit out.

  • Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder

    is a term used to describe disordered eating behaviours that significantly impact on the individual’s life, and are not better described by another diagnostic category.

With the right treatment, full recovery is possible!