Do I have an eating disorder? 

Written by Kristy Maskell BSc

Do I have an eating disorder?

Did you know that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder?

Read on to learn more about who may get an eating disorder, the types of eating disorders, and how a dietitian may be able to help you. 

If you are questioning whether you have an eating disorder, or certain disordered eating habits, you may be experiencing many thoughts and feelings. There are many types of eating disorders, all of which can affect your mental and physical health. 

Who can get an eating disorder?

Anyone may get an eating disorder. However eating disorders are more prevalent in adolescence and early adulthood (ages 15 to 25).1 Females also have a higher incidence of eating disorders.2 

Types of eating disorders

Individuals may not always fit neatly into diagnostic categories. However, some of the ways eating disorders may present include: 

  • Restrictive eating behaviours – This includes the restriction of food and undereating. It is often accompanied by an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. Some people with restrictive eating behaviours may be diagnosed with anorexia.
  • Compensatory behaviours – This typically involves cycles of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of laxatives. Some people with compensatory behaviours may have a diagnosis of bulimia.
  • Bingeing behaviours – This is characterized by recurring episodes of consuming large amounts of food in a short period, accompanied by a lack of control. When bingeing, the person may feel less present and might be eating more quickly than usual. Sometimes, people who binge eat may be diagnosed with binge eating disorder.
  • Sensory based eating disorders – Some people experience the senses at a much greater or lesser intensity than the general population. The act of eating engages multiple senses including taste, smell and noticing food textures and fullness levels. If you experience senses differently, it can impact your relationship with food. People who experience sensory-based eating difficulties may be diagnosed with ARFID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder) which can be characterised by a sensory-based eating difficulty, commonly seen in individuals with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions such as autism, ADHD, and anxiety.3
  • Seeking the ‘perfect’ diet – This involves the pursuit of a healthy diet to the point where it’s negatively impacting an individual’s wellbeing. They may experience anxiety regarding food choices and find it incredibly difficult to eat anything deemed ‘unhealthy’ or ‘bad’. People experiencing these behaviours may be diagnosed with orthorexia.

Check if you have an eating disorder

Common symptoms of eating disorders can include:4

  • Changes to the way you eat
  • Anxieties about eating
  • Having poor body image or concern about your body weight or shape
  • Changes to your physical health, including digestive issues, or loss of your menstrual cycle
  • Compensatory behaviours, such as excessive exercise

Not all the symptoms of an eating disorder may be listed, and those with eating disorders may not experience all of these symptoms at any one time.  

When to see a dietitian?

Early intervention for the management of eating disorders is vital for recovery.5 Eating disorder dietitians are trained to provide a blend of psychological and nutritional support.

At Fresh Approach Nutrition, we treat a variety of eating disorders and disordered eating habits in a supportive and non-judgemental way. Book your free discovery call today to see how we can help you, regardless of whether you have a formal eating disorder diagnosis or not. We understand getting help for your eating disorder can be daunting, this is why we have outlined what to expect from your first appointment

Disclaimer: This content is purely informational and should not replace professional medical advice. Dietetic support is not a replacement for psychological therapy in the treatment of eating disorders. Please seek advice from a qualified health professional, like us or your GP, if you are concerned about your eating. 

References

  1. Micali N, Hagberg KW, Petersen I, Treasure JL. The incidence of eating disorders in the UK in 2000–2009: findings from the General Practice Research Database. BMJ Open. 2013 May;3(5):e002646. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23793681/
  2. National Institute for Care Excellence. Eating disorders: how common is it? [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/eating-disorders/background-information/prevalence/
  3. Thomas JJ, Lawson EA, Micali N, Misra M, Dechersbach T, Eddy KT. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: a three dimensional model of neurobiology with implications for etiology and treatment.Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017 Aug;19:54. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28714048/
  4. National Institute for Care Excellence. Eating disorders: when should I suspect an eating disorder? [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/eating-disorders/diagnosis/clinical-features/
  5. Royal College of Psychiatrists. Position statement on early intervention for eating disorders [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/improving-care/better-mh-policy/position-statements/ps03_19.pdf?sfvrsn=b1283556_2 

Fresh Approach Nutrition

Our team of registered dietitians help people in Bristol and across the UK to overcome their struggles with food and to achieve their dietary goals.

We aim to cut through the confusion of dietary advice on the internet and in the media, and to give our clients the fresh approach they need to see real results.