Eating disorders

What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that must be taken seriously and cannot usually be overcome without specialist help.
A distinction is made between the following forms:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder (bulimia)
  • Binge eating (obesity)

Who is affected?
It is estimated that around 200,000 Austrians have been confronted with an eating disorder at least once in their lives.
Most women and girls suffer from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and their serious consequences.
Young men are also increasingly affected.

Warning signals

  • Intensive involvement with weight reduction and diets
  • A certain eating behavior and the intense preoccupation with food cannot be influenced voluntarily
  • Strong sensitivity when one's own appearance, one's own body receives attention from others
  • Avoiding a meal together due to feelings of shame or guilt
  • Withdrawal, avoidance of social contact
  • Severe depression, depressive symptoms

Anorexia nervosa

  • Self-induced, severe weight loss, the harmful consequences of which are ignored
  • Distorted perception of one's own body (despite being underweight, one's own body or individual body parts are perceived as too fat)
  • Strict control of body weight
  • "fattening" foods are avoided
  • Fear of getting fat
  • Excessive exercise with the sole purpose of losing weight
  • by women: Absence of menstruation
  • in or before puberty: delay in physical development

Consequential damage

  • Tiredness, nervousness, concentration problems, sleep disorders
  • Drop in pulse, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Brittle hair, tooth damage
  • Mood swings, change in personality
  • In severe cases, anorexia can even lead to death

Binge eating disorder (bulimia)

  • Frequent uncontrollable binge eating
  • Measures to prevent weight gain, such as deliberate vomiting or starvation, taking laxatives
  • Pathological fear of becoming fat
  • Thoughts revolve around the topics of food, weight and figure
  • Symptoms are usually successfully hidden
  • Those affected are often outwardly self-confident, popular people, women and men, who feel desperate and empty inside

Consequential damage

  • swollen salivary glands ("hamster cheeks"), damage to tooth enamel, cardiac arrhythmia
  • Social withdrawal, depression, self-deprecation

Binge eating (obesity)
Obesity is a disease characterized by a greatly increased body weight. The need for treatment is due to the physical and psychological consequences.
Binge eating characteristics

  • Extremely overweight or constantly fluctuating weight
  • Frequent uncontrollable binge eating without a prior feeling of hunger
  • Binge eating is intended to fill an "emotional hole"
  • after the binge: feelings of disgust and unpleasant bloating, but no measures to reverse the action such as vomiting or taking laxatives

Consequential damage

  • Overloading of the heart (including heart attack), circulation and skeleton, liver damage, diabetes, joint problems, stroke
  • Social withdrawal, depression, self-deprecation

Treatment of eating disorders
There are many reasons for the development of an eating disorder. Psychological, biological, psychosocial and sociocultural factors can all play a role. A holistic and individual treatment program is therefore essential.
Aims of the treatment:

  • Dealing with eating behavior
  • Development of personal responsibility
  • Increase in self-esteem
  • Understanding interrelationships
  • Development of a positive and realistic body image
  • Overcoming crises
  • Learning ways to deal with stress
  • Development of alternative courses of action

Tips for relatives
Eating disorders are not a nutritional problem, but a mental illness. It therefore makes no sense to appeal to those affected to "pull themselves together" and eat "normally" again.
The severe emotional crisis must be deciphered, even if it is initially denied by those affected.

  • Try to understand the problem in empathetic conversations!
  • Offer practical help!
    e.g. information about books or accompaniment to a counseling center