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Eating Disorders - General Information

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are a way of coping with painful feelings that are difficult to talk about. They are an unconscious attempt to avoid these feelings or keep them under control.

By eating disorders we mean:
· Anorexia Nervosa
· Bulimia Nervosa
· Binge Eating Disorder

Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa diet continually and starve themselves. They are usually extremely thin. Symptoms may include severe weight loss, periods stopping, insomnia, dizziness, feeling cold, feeling fat, being irritable, setting high standards, isolation, excessive exercising, losing friends, secretive behaviour.

Bulimia Nervosa

People with bulimia nervosa binge eat and then get rid of the food immediately either by vomiting or taking laxatives and/or diuretics. They are usually of a normal or slightly above normal body weight. Symptoms include sore throat and mouth infections, dental problems, irregular periods, poor skin condition, depression, mood swings, obsession with dieting and weight, secretive behaviour.

Binge Eating Disorder

People with binge eating behaviour usually eat large amounts of foods over a set period of time, often in response to stress, but do not get rid of the food.

What are causes of Eating Disorders?

There are many reasons why people develop eating disorders. Often there is no single cause but a whole series of events that makes the person feel unable to cope with his or her life. These could include family or school related problems, perfectionist values, lack of close friends, sexual or emotional abuse, the idea that to be successful you must be thin, eagerness to please others, not wanting to grow up. Research shows that some people can inherit a tendency to develop an eating disorder. The eating disorder is triggered by factors such as life events and personal or family situations.

The dangers of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can be very serious and in some cases may result in death. Very low weight or bingeing and vomiting may endanger health. There may be effects on the ovaries, the stomach and gut, the heart, the kidneys, teeth and salivary glands, hormones and there may be changes in blood pressure. Most of the changes and risks of eating disorders can be reversed by effective treatment.

Getting Help

It is very difficult for people with eating disorders to get better on their own. Recovery is easier if they have professional help and support from those who care from them. Will power on its own may not be enough.
People with eating disorders often want to get help but are afraid of how those around them will react. They are afraid that others will become angry with them and that they will lose the control they feel they have over their lives. They need to find someone they can trust and talk openly to about their feelings and difficulties.


The type of treatment available varies around the country but should include talking about the emotional difficulties that have led to the eating disorder as well as exploring the physical problems, general health matters and eating patterns.
It is important to have a medical assessment. The doctor may:
· Check out any medical condition and offer firm diagnosis.
· Assess what kind of treatment is most appropriate.
· Refer the person on to specialist services i.e. psychiatrist, hospital, psychologist, counsellor, dietician, etc.

Most people with eating disorders can be seen as out patients but in severe cases, hospital treatment may be necessary.

This information was supplied by Bodywhys

Support on campus is provided by the Health Promotion Office, the Medical Centre, the Counsellor Centre, and the Chaplaincy Team



Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road, Limerick, Tel:+35361 204300  V94VN26

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