Eating Disorders


Eating disorders (ED) are a range of psychological conditions characterised by unhealthy eating patterns, and may be prevalent even if you are within the healthy weight range. There are stereotypes that men are less likely to have ED but research shows that men actually make up 15% of ED cases. 


Types of ED and their characteristics

*differential characteristics 

  • Anorexia Nervosa
      • Intense fear of gaining weight*
      • Partial or total abstinence from food 
      • Severely distorted body image
      • Lack of awareness on seriousness of low weight
      • Subtypes: Diet restricting type or binge-eating/purging type (or by laxative)
  • Bulimia Nervosa
      • Engaged in a cycle of bingeing and purging 
      • Bingeing: emotionally induced consumption of excessive amounts of food every few hours
      • Guilt from bingeing triggers / prevention of weight gain through compensatory behaviour* (e.g. self-induced vomiting, excessive exercising, extreme fasting, or laxatives)
  • Binge-eating Disorder
      • Uncontrolled, impulsive, continuous overeating to the point of discomfort and pain
      • Intense guilt and self-loathing from bingeing
      • No compensatory behaviour (ie. purging) after*
      • Binge episodes are typically triggered by an emotional event, causing individuals to turn to food for comfort 
  • Orthorexia Nervosa
    • Extreme exercise and obsession with eating perceived ‘healthy’ food to attain ‘pure’, ‘clean’, and healthy bodies (focus on how food affects perceived health*)
    • Avoidance of perceived ‘unhealthy’ food, such as those with oil, butter, carbohydrates, etc. 
    • Excessive elimination of foods, resulting in extreme weight loss


Signs to look out for

  • Distorted perception of own body and weight
  • Extreme preoccupation with food
  • Emotional state tied to eating habits
  • Self-loathing behavior
  • Reduced concentration and thinking ability
  • Becoming very secretive about food
  • Moodiness, shakiness and irritability
  • Obsessive food routines and habits
  • Social withdrawal and isolation 
  • Avoidance of social situations that include food


Causes of ED

  • Mood Disorders
  • Unhealthy perceptions of body (may be sustained by parental and peer pressure)
  • Past traumatic experiences (e.g. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse)
  • Major changes in life (e.g. loss of a friend or family, relationship breakup)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Family history/ diet influence 
  • Media and environment (e.g. Beauty standards) 


Prevention for ED

  • Education for healthy eating, nutrition and coping methods
    • Health Promotion Board website
    • Consulting a nutritionist or dietician 
  • Engage in enjoyable and meaningful physical activities
  • Surround yourself with supportive and positive influences
  • Communicate with your friends and family about how you feel


Treatment for ED

  • Family Therapy
      • Common treatment for adolescents with anorexia 
      • Encourage parents to be involved in their child’s recovery 
      • Family can help to ensure that steps to recovery are taken at home, and not just during therapy
      • Members can help to watch your eating habits and help you work towards your goal
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
      • Identify and challenge dysfunctional thoughts about body image
      • Learn more adaptive ways of thinking and responding to triggers
  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
    • Addresses and regulates negative emotions 
    • Practice mindfulness
    • Learn distress tolerance skills to effectively deal with stressors



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Phoenix Park, Singapore 247974