Frequently Asked Questions About Eating Disorders


Welcome to our FAQ page on eating disorders. Here, you will find answers to some commonly asked questions about various aspects of eating disorders such as their causes, signs and symptoms, treatment options, and myths associated with them. It is important to note that while this information aims to provide a general understanding, it is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it is highly recommended to seek help from qualified healthcare professionals who can offer personalized guidance.

Eating disorders and disordered eating diagnoses often bring with it many questions.  How? What? Where? Why? Why seems to be the one that people get stuck on the most.  However, looking backwards doesn’t help you look forward to where you need to go.  Find a great team to support you and your loved one and learn as much about an eating disorder as you can.


The information provided in this FAQ page is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions regarding eating disorders or any other health-related matter. The content here is based on current knowledge and research in the field of eating disorders and may not cover all possible scenarios or individual circumstances. Remember that each person’s experience with an eating disorder can vary greatly; thus, it is essential to consult professionals for accurate assessment and appropriate care.

1. What are the different types of eating disorders?
The most commonly recognized eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED), also known as atypical eating disorders, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) are two additional categories.  Each disorder has unique characteristics and requires specific attention and treatment.


What are some signs and symptoms of an eating disorder?
  • Preoccupation with body weight
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Body checking
  • Extreme moods
  • Use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Vomitting after eating
  • Checking nutritional content of foods
  • Odd eating behaviour like cutting up food really small
  • Not eating foods you otherwise liked before
  • Not wanting to eat in front of other people
  • Have food rules
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Languna (fine body hair)
  • No longer having monthly cycles
  • Hair falling out
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Secrecy around food
  • Feeling guilty about eating food
  • Unexplained stomach issues
  • Food rituals such as eating things in a certain order
what causes eating disorders?
Eating disorders stem from a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, psychological, and societal factors. Common contributing factors include genetics/heredity, societal emphasis on thinness and beauty standards, history of trauma or abuse, perfectionism or anxiety disorders, low self-esteem or negative body image.
how do i know if i have an eating disorder?
Recognizing if you have an eating disorder can be challenging. Common signs include significant changes in weight, distorted body image, obsession with food or calorie counting, extreme fear of gaining weight, binge-eating episodes followed by compensatory behaviors like purging or excessive exercise. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.
Can males have eating disorders too?
Absolutely! While eating disorders are more commonly associated with women, men can also develop them. The signs and symptoms may differ slightly between genders but seeking help is essential regardless of gender identity.
What treatments are available for eating disorders?
Treatment options for eating disorders often involve a multidisciplinary approach that includes therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy), nutritional counseling, medical supervision/supports, group therapy or support groups, family interventions when appropriate and sometimes medication.
is recovery from an eating disorder possible?
Yes! Recovery from an eating disorder is possible with early intervention and appropriate treatment tailored to individual needs. With a supportive network comprising healthcare professionals and loved ones, many individuals achieve long-term recovery.
How can I support someone struggling with an eating disorder?
Supporting someone with an eating disorder involves being empathetic while encouraging them to seek professional help. Avoid judgments, focus on their feelings rather than appearance, and educate yourself about eating disorders to better understand their experiences. Encouraging open communication and offering to accompany them to appointments can also be helpful.
Can social media influence eating disorders?
Social media can contribute to the development or exacerbation of eating disorders due to its emphasis on appearances and comparison. Unrealistic beauty standards portrayed online can negatively impact body image and trigger disordered thoughts or behaviors. Limiting exposure, following body-positive accounts, and engaging in critical discussions around media portrayal may reduce these influences.
Are there any long-term health consequences of having an eating disorder?
Yes, eating disorders can have severe health consequences if left untreated. These include electrolyte imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, organ damage, weakened immune system, osteoporosis, infertility, cardiac issues, and even death in extreme cases. Seeking treatment is crucial for preventing or managing these complications.
How do I take the first step towards recovery?
Taking the first step towards recovery involves recognizing that you need help and reaching out for support from a healthcare professional who specializes in treating eating disorders. They will provide guidance on available options suitable for your specific circumstances and work with you towards a healthier relationship with food and your body.

Remember – seeking help is a sign of strength, and you deserve support on your journey towards healing and recovery.


Is it normal to feel ashamed or embarrassed about having an eating disorder?
It’s common for individuals with an eating disorder to experience feelings of shame or embarrassment due to stigma surrounding mental health issues like this. However, it’s essential to remember that having an eating disorder is not something to be ashamed of – seeking help is a brave and necessary step towards recovery.


Are eating disorders treatable?
Yes! With early intervention and appropriate treatment approaches such as therapy (individual and group), medical monitoring for physical health complications if necessary, nutritional support from registered dietitians specialized in eating disorders management – recovery is possible for people struggling with an eating disorder.
What are some Canadian statistics on eating disorders?
According to the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED), approximately 1 million Canadians struggle with eating disorders, with young people between 15-24 years being most at risk. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, with up to 10% of individuals dying from the disorder.


Can someone develop an eating disorder later in life?
Yes, while eating disorders often manifest during adolescence or early adulthood, they can also develop later in life. Life transitions, major stressors, body changes, or traumatic events may trigger disordered eating behaviors in adulthood.


Are eating disorders linked to other mental health conditions?
Yes, there is often a co-occurrence of eating disorders with other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance abuse issues. Treating underlying mental health conditions is an important part of comprehensive treatment.


Is binge eating considered an eating disorder?
Yes, binge eating disorder is recognized as a distinct eating disorder characterized by recurring episodes of excessive food consumption without compensatory behaviors such as purging or excessive exercise.
Should I talk to someone if I suspect that a friend or family member has an eating disorder?
If you’re concerned about a loved one, it’s important to approach the subject gently and with empathy. Express your concerns in a non-judgmental manner, provide support, and encourage them to seek professional help. Remember that eating disorders are complex mental health conditions, and professional guidance is crucial.
Are there any long-term effects of having an eating disorder?
Yes, unfortunately, prolonged eating disorders can have severe physical and psychological consequences. These can include malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, heart problems, bone density loss (osteoporosis), hormonal disruptions, gastrointestinal complications, dental issues, depression, anxiety disorders, and even death in extreme cases.


How can I tell if someone I know has an eating disorder?
Signs that someone may be struggling with an eating disorder can include significant weight loss or gain, changes in eating habits (such as strict dieting or avoiding certain food groups), obsession with food or calorie counting, frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, withdrawal from social activities involving food, anxiety or depression related to body image or weight concerns.  This list is not exhaustive and medical advice should always be sought out.
Are all eating disorders about wanting to be thin?
No, not all eating disorders are about wanting to be thin. While the pursuit of thinness is a common motivation in some eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, other eating disorders may have different underlying motivations. For example, binge eating disorder involves recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of food in a short period of time without compensatory behaviors and is often linked to emotional distress or feeling out of control. Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) involves an avoidance or restriction of certain foods due to sensory issues, fear of negative consequences, lack of interest in eating, or past negative experiences. Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that there can be various factors and motivations behind each individual’s experience with an eating disorder.
Can stress trigger an eating disorder?
While stress alone does not cause an eating disorder, it can certainly contribute to its development by potentially exacerbating underlying psychological vulnerabilities. Stressful life events such as academic pressure, relationship difficulties, or major life transitions can increase the risk of developing disordered eating behaviors.


Should I talk to someone about my concerns if I suspect they have an eating disorder?
If you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder, expressing your concern in a compassionate and non-judgmental manner can be helpful. Encourage them to seek professional help and offer to assist in finding resources and support if they are open to it.


Are eating disorders just about food?
Eating disorders are not solely about food. They are complex mental health disorders that involve a range of factors, including emotional struggles, body image dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, control issues, and underlying psychological vulnerabilities. Food and weight-related behaviors are often used as coping mechanisms for dealing with these deeper issues.
How can friends and family members support someone with an eating disorder?
Supporting someone with an eating disorder involves being understanding and non-judgmental while encouraging them to seek professional help. Educate yourself about the condition and available resources. Offer emotional support, be patient with their recovery process, avoid commenting on their appearance or weight changes negatively, and encourage them t
Can children have eating disorders?
Yes, children can develop eating disorders too. They might exhibit symptoms similar to those seen in adults with restrictive or binge-eating behaviors, excessive exercise habits, distorted body image concerns, or preoccupation with food and weight.


How can I help prevent the development of an eating disorder in my child?
Promoting positive body image at home by focusing on health rather than appearance is important. Encourage open conversations about emotions and provide support for stress management skills. Teach your child about media literacy so they can critically analyze unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in media.


Can trauma contribute to the development of an eating disorder?
Yes, experiencing traumatic events such as physical or emotional abuse, sexual assault, or significant loss can contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. For some individuals, disordered eating may serve as a coping mechanism or a way to regain control in response to the trauma they have experienced.
Do all people with eating disorders look extremely thin?
No, not everyone with an eating disorder appears underweight or extremely thin. Eating disorders come in various forms and can affect individuals across different body sizes.
Are eating disorders a choice?
No, eating disorders are not a conscious choice. They are complex mental health conditions influenced by various factors and should never be blamed solely on individual willpower or choice.
Is body dysmorphia similar to low self esteem?
While individuals with body dysmorphic disorder often experience low self-esteem, it is not the same. Body dysmorphia involves a distorted perception of one’s appearance, often obsessing over perceived flaws that others may not notice or find insignificant.


what is body dysmorphic disorder?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) involves obsessive thoughts and concerns about perceived flaws in one’s appearance. Individuals with BDD often engage in compulsive behaviors, such as excessive grooming or seeking reassurance about their appearance. It can significantly impact daily functioning and lead to social withdrawal and depression.


Can therapy help in the treatment of eating disorders?
Therapy is a crucial component of eating disorder treatment. Different therapeutic approaches are used to address the underlying factors contributing to the disorder and develop healthier coping mechanisms and behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family-based therapy (FBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are commonly used in treating eating disorders.
What are some health risks associated with eating disorders?
Eating disorders can cause a wide range of serious health consequences such as electrolyte imbalances, heart problems (including irregular heartbeat), muscle weakness and wastage, osteoporosis (weakening of bones), gastrointestinal issues (such as acid reflux), hormonal disturbances, kidney damage/failure due to dehydration from purging behaviors,


Hope is something I learned to carry with me always.  I had to hold hope for both my daughter and myself.  Oftentimes she didn’t have any, and I knew if I let go of that she may doubt it.


Setting and holding boundaries with an eating disorder is key.  ED will push boundaries and get angry when they are set and held.  However, without firm boundaries in place, it makes recovery more difficult.


Communication – wow this is a huge one and sometimes the most difficult to initiate.  I had to learn my daughter’s verbal and non verbal cues for when she was stressed or triggered and ask if I could support her.  I found if I was non judgmental, our relationship became easier.