Understanding and demystifying eating disorders

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that anyone can develop. In this article, we’ll look at the characteristics of different eating disorders and debunk a few common misconceptions. If you think you may have an eating disorder or know someone who does, don’t hesitate to speak to a health care professional.

A person suffering from eating disorder

What is an eating disorder?

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder. It can be difficult to make sense of eating disorders and the different forms they can take. A key point to remember is that eating disorders are about more than just food. Obsessing over what you eat, how many calories you consume, and how much you weigh is a sign of deep unhappiness.

Eating disorders are not passing phases, but rather complex illnesses influenced by multiple factors.

What causes eating disorders?

Eating disorders stem from a combination of biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors that result in serious consequences to an individual’s physical and mental health.

What are the symptoms of an eating disorder?

Eating disorders can be characterized by abnormal eating habits, excessive fear of gaining weight, and anxiety about body image. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek help and consult a psychologist.

What are the different types of eating disorders?

Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa (or simply anorexia) deliberately and dangerously reduce their food intake out of an intense fear of gaining weight. They have a distorted perception of their weight or shape, which causes them to restrict what they eat. People with anorexia may engage in unsafe practices such as extreme dieting, fasting, induced vomiting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercise.


Bulimia is characterized by recurrent binge eating, followed by behaviours to compensate for overeating. These compensatory behaviours can include extreme dieting, fasting, induced vomiting, and excessive exercising, among many others. People who have bulimia often experience overwhelming feelings of shame, disgust, or guilt after bingeing.

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is also characterized by binge episodes, but without compensatory behaviours. People with binge eating disorder experience a loss of control during these episodes, which often provoke feelings of shame, disgust, or guilt.

Who can develop an eating disorder?

Although they often develop during adolescence (ages 13 to 18) and predominantly occur in girls, eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of sex or age. This includes adults, teenagers, and even children. That said, over 90% of people with an eating disorder are female, while the small remaining percentage are male.

Eating disorder myths and facts

Eating disorders are complex, and they’re the subject of a number of misconceptions.


Do you have to be skinny to have an eating disorder?

This is one of the most common myths about eating disorders. While thinness can indeed be a symptom of anorexia, not everyone with an eating disorder is underweight. In other words, you can’t determine whether someone has an eating disorder based solely on their physical appearance.


Are all eating disorders serious?

Yes! It’s a mistake to think otherwise. Eating disorders need to be taken seriously and treated as soon as possible because they have a very high potential to become chronic. According to the National Institute of Nutrition, 10% to 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia die from it. Anorexia even has the highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders.


Is it possible to recover from an eating disorder?

Yes. Many people believe it isn’t, since overcoming this illness takes time. But with ample support and the right treatment, a full recovery is possible. Patience is crucial, as relapses are common and all part of the healing process. That said, remember that the earlier a person is treated for their eating disorder, the better their chances of recovery.

How do you overcome an eating disorder?

If you think you may have an eating disorder or know someone who does, keep these points in mind:

  • It’s important to seek help quickly at the first signs of an eating disorder.
  • Psychological therapy and support from your friends and family are crucial to the recovery process.
  • You can trust your pharmacist to listen to your needs and direct you to the appropriate resources.

Last updated on March 15, 2023

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Understanding and demystifying eating disorders

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that can affect many people. In this article we guide you through the different types of eating disorders.
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