What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders can come in many different forms, but they all tend to include unusual eating behaviours and in some, an intense focus on diet, exercise and body weight that preoccupies an individual’s life.

Teens and women in their early twenties are particularly vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. About one in 20 Australians has an eating disorder and this rate is increasing (Butterfly Foundation, 2012).  Research conducted by the National Eating Disorders Collaboration suggests that 20% of females in Australia have an undiagnosed eating disorder (NEDC, 2012).

These disorders often cause extreme distress and depression and anxiety often occur with the disorder. Eating disorders can be extremely dangerous, putting individuals at risk for a range of physical problems such as, malnutrition, dental issues, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiac conditions and death. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) there are four main categories of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Other Eating Disorders

Risk factors

There are many risk factors that make it more likely someone will develop an eating disorder. Dieting, trauma, poor self-esteem, and perfectionism, appear to be key factors that make someone more vulnerable. Media influence is also linked with eating disorders, particularly media messages displayed to young viewers (Harrison, & Cantor,1997). Unsustainable diets and lifestyle choices recommended to help individuals look a certain way, may lead to unrealistic standards that contribute to poor self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction.

Could you or someone you know have an Eating Disorder?

Warning Signs and Symptoms

It’s important to be aware of signs that suggest yourself or someone else is developing or experiencing an eating disorder. Many people with an eating disorder don’t believe they have a problem, or go to astonishing lengths to hide their behaviour. Common signs include:

  • Constant dieting/restriction
  • Eating in secret or hiding food or food wrappers
  • Eating to discomfort or pain
  • Self-induced vomiting, laxatives or excessive exercise
  • Low self-esteem, feeling ‘fat’
  • Low weight
  • Always feeling cold, fatigue
  • Belief of ‘losing control’ around food
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Safe’/ ‘good’ and ‘unsafe’ /‘bad’ foods
  • Frequent weighing (unrelated to medical conditions)
  • Restriction of appearance related activities, e.g. avoidance of the beach
  • Mood disturbances
  • Swelling around the cheeks/jaw and damage to knuckles
  • Wearing oversized clothing
  • Gastro-intestinal problems


At Revive, we have psychologists who have made the treatment of eating disorders an area of special focus with strong experience in working with children, adolescents and adults. We also work with experienced dietitians, GPs and psychiatrists, as a multi-disciplinary approach ensures our clients receive the best possible treatment.

We use a range of different evidence based treatments for eating disorders such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Eating Disorders (CBT-ED), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Interpersonal Therapy (IT) and Mindfulness.

Eating disorders can be extremely dangerous, however early intervention can reduce the likelihood that the individual will experience long term physical damage.

If you think yourself, or someone you know may be dealing with an eating disorder, consider options such as a GP referral to a registered or clinical psychologist, specialised in eating disorders.

Revive has a number of Registered and Clinical psychologists ready to help with Eating Disorders and associated mental health conditions, including Catlin Jutsum who has made treating eating disorders a particular area of focus.

For more information or book an appointment, send us an email via our contact us page or talk to one of the friendly team at Revive now by calling 6381 0297.