Eating Disorders

Diagnosis of Eating Disorders

There are a number of diagnostic criteria for eating disorders, but the common underlying feature is a distortion of body image and a corresponding fear of fatness. Above are the diagnostic criteria for the principal eating disorders, as defined by ICD-10.

Consequences of Eating Disorders

As food provides the basic fuel driving all body processes, eating disorders are associated with myriad consequences on physical health. In addition there may be extreme consequences on mental health, relationships and social wellbeing. As a result anorexia nervosa has the highest lifetime mortality of any psychiatric disorder (about 1 in 6), significantly more than depression, schizophrenia or alcohol misuse.

Psychological Factors in Eating Disorders

Evidence has been found for many other factors predisposing to eating disorders, including genetic factors (there is a high heritability), pregnancy and birth complications, and environmental factors (e.g. critical comments about appearance at home or at school).

Management of Eating Disorders

The first concern in the treatment of eating disorders is always to manage any potential for significant physical risk. Beyond that, food is essential where nutrition has been compromised as psychological therapies are unlikely to be successful without this. The mainstays of psychological treatment are education, cognitive behavioural therapy and (particularly in young people) family therapy.