Imagine Health

Eating Disorders

It is believed that nearly 200,000 people in Ireland suffer from an eating disorder. It is estimated that 400 new cases will appear each year. Today we explain what an eating disorder is, the different types and treatment options.

What is an Eating Disorder?

Stereotypically, when we think about eating disorders, we imagine someone who is very underweight and is restricting the amount of food he or she eats. However, an eating disorder is so much more. It is a serious, complex, and potentially life threatening mental health disorder. It is characterised by a change in a person’s eating habits, severe distress or concern over a person’s weight or body image and/or excessive exercising.

There is no single reason for an eating disorder. And it is not primarily about food. They usually develop over time in reaction to a range of factors such as life changes, bullying, teasing about your body, loss, stress, or depression.

Types of Eating Disorders

The three most common eating disorders are:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight.

Bulimia Nervosa

People who suffer with bulimia, binge eat (eating a lot of food in one go). They may then feel guilty and try to compensate for the binge.

Some might feel the need to get rid of the food instantly by throwing up the food or by using laxatives, diuretics, or other medication to get rid of the food. Others may also starve after a binge or use heavy exercise to burn off the calories.

People with bulimia, probably are normal weight or their weight may fluctuate. This makes bulimia less noticeable than anorexia and it can go untreated for longer.

Binge eating Disorder

Binge eating is thought to be a lot more common than Anorexia or Bulimia. Similar to someone with anorexia and bulimia, the person with binge eating disorder feels like they have to continue with the binge eating possibly as a way of coping with emotional distress. However, a person with this type of eating disorder will not feel the need to throw up after a binge. Due to the nature of this eating disorder, many sufferers may significantly go up in weight.

Other eating disorders include:

  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  • Exercise Bulimia
  • Muscle Dysmorphia
  • Orthorexia
  • Pica


For most people with an eating disorder, there comes a point when the eating disorder is unbearable. Seeking help is an important part in recovery. This can be done through speaking to a loved one, a General Practitioner or Mental Health Practitioner. Recovery from an eating disorder often requires both medical and psychological help.

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Written by Alannagh Kelly