Thanks to the popularity of social media, we are all too often exposed to physical appearances that are heavily altered, unrealistic, and only represent a small number of people. It can feel as though we are bombarded by images of fit, toned, fat free, tanned bodies.

The pressure to be a particular physical size or shape can lead to an over-emphasis on our appearance, a preoccupation with what we eat or how much we eat, and a desire to control our eating habits so that we can replicate the images we see on social media, or some image we have in our mind of how we ‘should’ look. Although the health consequences are serious, people who restrict their eating often experience a sense of control over their body and their life when so many other things in their life seem out of control. This might include relationship issues, depression, abuse, bullying, low self-esteem, as well as the very vulnerable stages of adolescence where young people are entering the complicated world of adulthood. Although this sense of control is very rewarding, it is important to remember that there are very serious short and long-term consequences to disordered eating.

There are roughly four types of disordered eating:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa
  2. Bulimia
  3. Compulsive Overeating
  4. Other Feeding and Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

This involves a distorted body image and restricting eating (or starving) to the point of extreme thinness. Symptoms can include sudden unexplained weight loss, skipping meals or eating alone, excessive exercising, excessive dieting, depression, total preoccupation with body shape and weight, and restricted living to the point where a person is primarily concerned with exercising and not eating.

The physical effects can be severe indigestion, skin and nail problems, thinning hair, sensitivity to cold and severe weight loss. Longer-term consequences include severe physical and psychological complications.