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What is an eating disorder? 


Clinique altermed


Eating Disorders : An introduction Guide

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What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is defined as an unhealthy relationship with food
and body image which leads to unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits.
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The BioPsychoSocial Model

There are 3 factors that can lead to someone developing an eating disorder.

1. Biological :

  • Certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite and digestion have been found to be unbalanced in some individuals suffering from disordered eating.


2. Psychological

  • Low self esteem

  • Feeling of inadequacy

  • Lack of control in life

  • Depression, anxiety

  • Anger

  • Stress

  • Loneliness


3. Social aspects

Some cultures glorify the image of being thin and puts pressure on those not fitting the culture's idea of beauty and success.



Types of eating disorders

1. Anorexia:

  • An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat

  • A distortion of one’s body image

  • Severe dietary restriction.

Signs and symptoms of anorexia

  • Depressed mood

  • Anxiety (especially social anxiety)

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

  • Social withdrawal

  • Perfectionism

  • Dramatic weight loss

  • Excessive weighting of one's self

  • Excessive exercising

  • Frequent comments about feeling ''fat'' or overweight despite weight loss

  • Amenorrhea : Absence of a menstrual cycle in a woman for a period of 3 to 6 months

  • Denial of hunger

  • Limiting food intake

  • Calculating/counting calories

  • Cooking elaborate meals for others, but not eating the food

  • Consistent excuses to avoid meal times

  • Increased social isolation

  • Withdrawal from activities that were once enjoyed

  • Defensive when confronted about weight and eating habits

  • Low energy and fatigue

  • Wearing layers of baggy clothes to hide weight loss

  • Use of Pro-Ana websites (internet websites that promote/support anorexia).

2. Bulimia:

  • Characterized by the presence of recurring episodes of food restriction followed by binge eating.

  • Binge eating can be characterized by the consumption of an unusually large amount of food in a relatively short amount of time.

  • Behaviours that follow bingeing are often meant to purge the body of food and prevent weight gain.

Signs and symptoms of bulimia :

  • Excessive exercise

  • Fasting

  • Severe restriction

  • Misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas

  • Self-induced vomiting

  • Bulimia signs and symptoms can vary between those linked to Anorexia and Binge Eating Disorder.

3. Binge Eating Disorder:

  • characterized by episodes of intense compulsive eating

  • not followed by any compensatory measures, such as in bulimia.

Signs and symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder :

  • Eating very quickly

  • Eating regardless of hunger cues, even if one is already full

  • Eating until uncomfortably or painfully full

  • Eating alone due to embarassment about the type and quantity of food ingested

  • Feeling of self-disgust, guilt and depression

  • Food is linked to various emotional states (happiness, guilt, sadness, depression)

  • Food is seen as the enemy.


Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS):

These incorporate behaviours associated with one or more eating disorders, without fitting into a specific category. They can correspond to behaviours associated with an obsession with food or with body image. Orthorexia and muscular dysmorphia are two examples.



  • An obsession with eating the “right” foods.

  • A lot of energy is put into choosing the foods that is believed to be the healthiest and no deviation is acceptable.

  • Many individuals suffering from a anorexia ‘hide’ behind specific diets to deal with social situations (e.g. vegan lifestyle, raw diet, ...)

­ Muscular Dysmorphia (bigorexia):

  • This type of eating disorder is commonly experienced by men and by very athletic people.

  • A person suffering from muscular dysmorphia may follow very strict dietary guidelines, work out a lot or too much, and take supplements.

  • These people feel shame and guilt when they are unable to follow their intense training and dietary regimens.