Eating Disorders

If an eating disorder is affecting you or someone you know and their health, relationships, work, finances or other life situations, please contact us for support.

Knowing the facts

Eating disorders include intense emotions and abnormal behaviors around food and weight. They are associated with serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences.

A recent study, 27% of all law students screened positive for an eating disorder (34% of females and 18% males).  

Eating disorders are about the way you feel about food, your weight, body and self-image. With support eating disorders are treatable. The three most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.  

Anorexia is associated with persistent behaviors that interfere with maintaining an adequate weight for health.  Typically, these behaviors involve restricting diet, purging and over-exercising.  A person has a powerful fear about becoming fat and constantly overestimates body size and shape.   

Bulimia is associated with purging food after a period of binge eating through laxatives, diuretics, and enemas.  The person feels out of control over how much and what is eaten.  The person feels negative about their weight and shape and feels this matters more about them than anything else.

Binge-Eating is characterized by recurring episodes of binge eating.  The person feels out of control when they are eating and will feel self-disgust, guilt and shame.  The binging is not followed by excessive exercise, vomiting or misuse of laxatives etc.  It is seen as a disorder if it occurs once a week for a period of three months or more.

Orthorexia is another disorder not officially an eating disorder but frequently co-occurs with eating disorders.  It is more often diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder.  An orthorexic may avoid certain food additives, fat, sugar, salt, food colouring and other ingredients that they deem unhealthy. Restricting your diet can lead to malnutrition and with that comes a variety of health problems including heart, kidney and cardiac failure.  

Effects of Eating Disorders

All eating disorders can lead to sever health problems including death due to severe dehydration or suicide.  They can also lead to dental problems, gastrointestinal and esophageal issues and impaired immune system functioning.

Signs of Eating Disorders

  • Severe weight loss
  • Food rituals
  • Expresses extreme concern with body weight and shape
  • Frequent dieting
  • Uncomfortable eating around others
  • Mood swings
  • Skipping meals or taking small portions at meals with others
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Menstrual problems
  • Complaints about stomach cramps
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of focus and concentration

Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia have an intense and irrational fear of gaining weight and having body fat. They may believe they're fat, even when well below the normal weight for their height and age. Anorexia is the most fatal eating disorder: some people may die of complications related to starvation, while others die of suicide.

Signs and symptoms include:
  • extremely restricted eating (e.g., avoiding mealtime, eating only certain foods)
  • extreme thinness
  • a constant pursuit of thinness and an unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
  • an intense fear of gaining weight (e.g., frequently weighing themselves)
  • a distorted body image (e.g., seeing themselves as overweight when they are not).


People with bulimia go through cycles of bingeing and purging. Bingeing involves eating large amounts of food quickly. This makes people feel physically ill and anxious about gaining weight. Then they purge, which can involve vomiting, depriving themselves of food, over exercising or using laxatives and diuretics.

Signs and symptoms include:
  • a frequently inflamed and sore throat
  • swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals), which can lead to stroke or heart attack.

Binge eating disorder

People with binge eating disorder overeat compulsively, consuming huge amounts of food, often all at once. Like the other disorders, people with BED often feel out of control and powerless to stop the behaviour.

Signs and symptoms include:
  • eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time
  • eating even when full
  • eating fast during binge episodes
  • eating until uncomfortably full
  • eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
  • feeling distressed, ashamed or guilty about eating
  • frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss.

Orthorexia nervosa

Orthorexia nervosa describes a pathological obsession with proper nutrition that is characterized by a restrictive diet, ritualized patterns of eating, and rigid avoidance of foods believed to be unhealthy or impure. Although prompted by a desire to achieve optimum health, orthorexia may lead to nutritional deficiencies, medical complications, and poor quality of life.

Like anorexia, orthorexia involves restriction of the amount and variety of foods eaten, making malnutrition likely. Therefore, the two disorders share many of the same physical consequences.

Signs and symptoms include:
  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
  • An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
  • Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
  • Body image concerns may or may not be present


Related Areas


Take a Test