An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that involves preoccupation with control over one’s body weight, shape, eating and exercising. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice. Explore videos, clips and factsheets. Refine your search using the options menu.

Topic Videos

Fabricating Beauty - BodyTalk

A picture tells a 1000 words but not many of them true. A look into the world of magazine photos.

  • Author: BEAT
  • Upload Date: 13/6/2011


Stories on this Topic

Featured Story (image)

Eating Disorders - You Are Not Alone

An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that involves preoccupation with control over one's body weight, shape, eating and exercising. It can be a way of dealing with underlying unresolved emotional and psychological issues. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice. Check out the full blog story here: http://www.tuneinnotout.com/blog/eating-disorders-you-are-not-alone

  • Author: TINO
  • Upload Date: 2011-11-29



Eating Disorders

Provided by The Butterfly Foundation

We have partnered with The Butterfly Foundation to bring you the best factsheet information we can on eating disorders. The Butterfly Foundation provides support for Australians for suffer from eating disorders and negative body issues and their carers.

An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that involves preoccupation with control over one’s body weight, shape, eating and exercising. It can be a way of dealing with underlying unresolved emotional and psychological issues.Doll looking into light

An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice.

There are four different types of eating disorders, all with different characteristics and causes.
Eating disorders can affect anyone. They do not discriminate by age, sex or race.

The incidence of eating disorders in the total population is 2‐3% and increasing, while the average age of onset is decreasing. Eating disorders affect more women than men, however eating disorders may be underdiagnosed in men due to them being less likely to seek help for an illness that is often seen to only be a ‘women’s issue.’.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is characterised by severe starvation and weight loss, sometimes with purging behaviours as well. Anorexia sufferers experience high body distortion and mistakenly believe and feel they are overweight, no matter how underweight they may actually be.
Visit our Anorexia Nervosa information page.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is characterised by recurrent binge eating episodes followed by compensatory behaviours such as self induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas and other medications, fasting and overexercising. A binge episode involves consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time, whilst also experiencing a loss of control and intense feelings of guilt.
Visit our Bulimia Nervosa information

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder is characterised by periods of binge eating without compensatory behaviours. Bingeing normally involves eating excessive amounts of food, often when not hungry, followed by intense feelings of guilt, depression and shame. Bingeing often serves as a distraction for someone to avoid thinking about underlying emotional difficulties. BED affects men and women equally.
Visit our Binge Eating Disorder information page.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified

EDNOS is a term used to describe an atypical presentation of an eating disorder that does not meet all of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. This does not mean in any way that someone experiencing an EDNOS is any less unwell or deserving of help.
Visit our Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified page

Warning signs of an Eating Disorder

It is important to be aware of the warning signs of an eating disorder. If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms it may mean that you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, or be experiencing one already. The signs to be most cautious of occur in clusters. It
is important to seek help and support as soon as possible for an eating disorder,as it has been shown that early intervention allows the chances of a shorter recovery time.

Physical Signs

  • Rapid fluctuation in weight (loss or gains)
  • Menstrual changes and irregularities
  • Poor dental heath, such as gum disease and enamel loss
  • Broadening jaw line and swollen salivary glands due to vomiting
  • Feeling consistently cold with poor circulation
  • Unexplained fainting, dehydration and/or electrolyte disturbances
  • Poor sleep quality, tiredness
  • Use of appetite suppressants, laxatives, diuretics
  • Somatic complaints – Gastrointestinal disorders (bloating, constipation, intolerance to foods)

Behavioural Signs

  • Avoiding socialising, especially when eating is involved
  • Increasing isolation and loss of friends
  • Frequent self weighing
  • Excessive or extreme exercise
  • Secretative behaviour and covering up the truth
  • Changes in eating patterns, such as restrictive eating or reporting of food allergies or vegetarianism
  • Dieting to lose weight
  • Trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Body image disturbance

Psychological Signs

  • Refusing to maintain a healthy weight, including fear of weight gain
  • Obsessive thoughts about food
  • Feeling “fat” despite being a normal weight
  • Perfectionism and self criticism
  • Life centres around food and need for control
  • Depression, anxiety and moodiness
  • Self harm, suicide ideation and suicide attempts

Where to go for help

It is important that if you believe you or someone you know has an eating disorder to seek professional assistance immediately. It can be scary to make this first step, however the earlier help is sought the quicker the road to recovery. If you require a referral to a general practitioner or
other health practitioner practicing in the eating disorder field, contact The Butterfly Foundation for a list of names and numbers.

The Butterfly Foundation offers telephone and email support for those with eating disorders and their family and friends. This confidential and supportive counselling service is available on

1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or


Treatment Options

Visit our information page on Treatment Options for Eating Disorders for more information including a factsheet and videos. Also see our tips for recovery below.

Tips for Recovery

Recovering from an eating disorder means different things to different people. Recovery is a process, like a journey, and it has many stages. For some people recovery can be the abstinence of behaviours and thoughts that have kept them unwell. For others, it has a focus on integrating back into regular life.

Recovering from an eating disorder takes some time and considerable effort. It is vital that you be patient and kind to yourself throughout your entire recovery process. You may find sometimes that you feel like you are not getting anywhere or moving quickly enough through your recovery. At times like this it is important to ‘hang in there’ and keep believing that full recovery is possible.

It is rare for anyone’s journey to recovery to happen in a linear way. There are often twists, turns and bumps along the way.

Listed below are some tips to help you in your recovery process:

Take Time Out

Try to do something nurturing and positive for yourself at least once a week. This is an important part of self care.

Reach Out for Support

You are not alone. Reach out to family, friends or community supports like Butterfly Foundation who can help you in times of need. Visit our treatment options information page for various options.

Reasons for Change

Remind yourself whenever possible of your reasons for change. You are deciding to move on from life without an eating disorder being present. This is a bold decision and deserves praise.

Values and Beliefs

Examine your values and beliefs and how your eating disorder may have detracted from you living your best life. This can be a powerful reminder as to why you are on a recovery path.

Triggers and Relapse

Relapse can occur in the process of recovering from an eating disorder and is actually quite common. It is important to not see this as a failure in any way. It is simply a part of the journey and a sign you may need extra professional support at that time.

Every person has different triggers and it’s important that you know yours. Often people with eating disorders find it difficult at times of change, high stress, and when feeling emotionally vulnerable.

Explore your triggers and put a plan into place if you feel that the eating disorder is coming back into your life. Reaching out for support to understand your triggers better can also help greatly.

Explore your Interests

Often when you are suffering from an eating disorder, your whole world becomes entrenched with thoughts about eating and associated behaviours. During recovery, take time to look at the enjoyed interests that you held before your eating disorder came into place, or that you might like to explore now. Did you enjoy playing the piano or would you like to learn a musical instrument? Are you a creative person that is missing an outlet for this side of yourself? By participating in these activities it will help you to refind your interests, find new ones and give you time out from your eating disorder.


Do not hide your feelings and emotions away. Allow yourself to feel. This can be a daunting task to do but can help you fight your eating disorder by being real and genuine. Work to sit with difficult feelings in a safe environment and this will help them to move on quicker. If you find the process of allowing your true feelings to surface to be very difficult, seek support from your treatment provider or a trusted family member or friend.

Related Pages
Latest Topics

Join the Discussion

Tell us how you have positively managed this topic and help others find their way through...

8 Responses to “Eating Disorders”

  1. Leanne says:

    Am i being paranoid if i think i have an eating disorder and show signs of depression?

    • Lynz says:

      Not all at Leanne, in fact it means you are very aware of what is going on for you. Perhaps you could go and have a chat with your GP, or even contact your local headspace service, or chat to them via their eheadspace service either online or va the phone.

      All the best


  2. Julz says:

    Is it possible to only having an eating disorder on some occasions? some days I don’t eat at all because I fear the risk of getting fat and then there are days where I eat a healthy amount.

  3. ky says:

    my nurse and gp i see think i may have bulima. however i don’t think there is a problem and find it so hard to talk about topics like this. i don’t want to stop seeing them from how far i have come from depression’s deep blackness but when i do see them they keep bringing this sensitive topic up.
    is there a sugestion on how to approach tell them i still want to see them about the depression but not bulima they think i may have?

    • lynz says:

      Hi Ky, Firstly how great that you have been dealing with the depression so well – well done you, and for being so strong in wanting to successfully manage this issue with the nurse and GP. We can’t give one on one counselling on here – but perhaps you could contact the Butterfly Foundation, they have a hotline number, have a chat to them about what is going on for you. They might be able to provide some good information that you can take back to your GP and nurse that will be helpful for all of you. Take great care and we hope it gets resolved for you. Lynz http://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/contact-us/ or hot line 1800 ED HOPE

  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve had bolimia (I’m not sure if that’s how you spell it), where I’d be throwing up my food after eating, twice. I’ve been trying to loose weight by being healthy, but when ever I look down at my body I gwt the urgw to make myself throw up. I’ve already done it twice this week. Do I need help? The past cases I didn’t have professional help, though.

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Email (will not be published) (required)