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Eating Disorders Explained

Posted by Erin Fischer on

Over 1 million Australians suffer with an eating disorder but less than a quarter of those will receive the support they need. Eating disorders don’t discriminate and aren’t just a well-off white girl issue as many people first assume, with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds suffering from eating disorders and 37% of those suffering with eating disorders identifying as male.

Eating disorders don't just stem from wanting to be thin. They can occur due to many things including because of abuse or trauma, a need to control something in their lives, as a coping mechanism because of the various pressures in their lives or related to another mental illness just to name a few. While it may seem that eating disorders develop overnight, the reality is that many happen slowly. With not even the person who is experiencing them recognising what is going on until they are in too deep. What can start as a seemingly harmless coping strategy or simply just wanting to eat healthy can soon turn into an unhealthy obsession. Eating disorders can also be considered a form of self harm (which we will be covering next Friday).

These are the 8 most recognised types of eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa – this is one of the eating disorders people are most familiar with. It is defined by people restricting their diet and becoming obsessed with exercise and controlling every calorie they consume. People with Anorexia have an intense fear regarding gaining weight or becoming overweight regardless of their appearance.

Bulimia – this is the other eating disorder people are familiar with. This is defined by people binging and then purging food. People with Bulimia often place an emphasis on their body shape or weight.

Binge eating disorder – people eating a lot of food over a very short period of time but don’t purge it. During these periods they often experience a loss of control over their behaviours.

Disordered eating – this is disturbed and unhealthy eating patterns. This includes skipping meals, counting calories or restrictive eating.

Pica – this is where people eat things that aren’t food.

ARFID (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder) – also known as extreme picky eating. A person suffering this has highly selective eating habits, disturbed feeding patterns or both.

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED) – people show characteristics of one or more eating disorders, but they don’t meet the full criteria of diagnosis any one eating disorder.

Orthorexia – this is a relatively new eating disorder and isn’t currently recognised as an official diagnosis. It involves an obsession with healthy or “clean” eating. People will obsess over the health benefits and quality of food but not the quantity.

Many people can experience multiple types of eating disorders and jump between diagnoses throughout their lifetimes and it’s not just something you can get over. For many people they will always have complicated relationship with food, and it is something they will always have to work on. There are also many long-term health issues related to eating disorders including infertility issues in women, brittle bones, teeth issues and heart issues. Even if someone gets better from an eating disorder the health issues will remain.

You can’t always tell if someone has an eating disorder someone who is of a healthy BMI or overweight could be suffering from anorexia or bulimia, and someone who is on the smaller side could be suffering from binge eating disorder. It’s important to be mindful when making comments about eating disorders as you never know exactly what someone is going through.

Feel free to drop by, just say, ‘Hey Barty’ in strict confidence and you can be anonymous if you wish. Or, do not hesitate to leave a question in the comments below any time.

Additional Resources:

The Butterfly Foundation Support for Eating Disorders

You Can't Ask That: Eating Disorders 

ReachOut Eating Disorders


Butterfly (2021). Support for Australians Experiencing Eating Disorders. [online] Butterfly Foundation. Available at: (2019). Eating disorders. [online] Available at:


About Erin Fischer

Am the qualified mental health professional at Barty Single Origin. Write topical pieces with a focus on mental health. Always available on chat, Passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and letting people know it's A-OK to be not OK.


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