An eating disorder is a serious mental illness, characterised by eating, exercise and body weight or shape becoming an unhealthy preoccupation of someone's life. It's estimated that one million Australians have an eating disorder, and this number is increasing. Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice, a diet gone wrong or a cry for attention. Eating disorders can take many different forms and interfere with a person's day to day life. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognises four eating disorders:
Read more: Classifying eating disorders
Early intervention is the best way to assist with successful recovery. It's important to be aware of the warning signs that may indicate someone is developing or experiencing an eating disorder. Many people with an eating disorder do not realise they have a problem, or if they do, they may go to extraordinary lengths to hide the signs of their behaviour.
Although they don't always seem like it, eating disorders happen in stages. These stages look a little different within each person's recovery process, but the basic outline remains the same: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and (potentially) relapse.
Read more: Stages of an eating disorder
Eating disorders do not have a single, identifiable cause. There are psychological, physiological and social risk factors which may increase the likelihood of an eating disorder developing, as well as behaviours and traits which can be changed (such as dieting, poor self-esteem, perfectionism).
Read more: Risk factors
For more information please visit http://www.eatingdisorders.org.au