There are various eating disorders and you may have heard of some of them. Anorexia and Bulimia are ones that are commonly spoken about. Both are driven by disordered thoughts about weight, shape and control over eating which result (in the case of Anorexia) in severe restricting of energy into the body (compared with what the body actually needs) such that a person becomes very underweight. In the case of Bulimia, while the person restricts their food intake, they find themselves on occasion bingeing or eating more than they are happy with and then compensating for this in some way (e.g. via vomiting, using laxatives, diet pills, over-exercising or diabetic people omitting their insulin). People with Anorexia can use these means of compensating for eating too but the main difference might be that their weight has plummeted to a lower level.
Sometimes people don’t fit neatly into one category or other but still have an extreme concern about weight, shape and eating control. For example, they may binge more frequently, or not compensate, such as in the case of someone who has a binge eating disorder.
There is also a disorder that involves avoiding different foods due to discomfort with some food sensations or worrying that eating might cause problems such as choking, vomiting or stomach upset. This is called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). ARFID is not caused by extreme concerns about body shape and weight but people who have ARFID can have severe concerns about their eating. Similarly, some people's eating pattern can become very restrictive because of trying to eat as healthily as possible, and this can lead to difficulties with physical health and with everyday living.
The impact of an eating disorder can be very serious both mentally and physically. If you are worried about your physical health as a result of having an eating disorder, we would definitely encourage you to see your GP to discuss your health as soon as possible. Sometimes we need to share our concerns and, with the benefit of hindsight, we are glad that we did.
In 2018 Cardiff and Vale Eating Disorders Service staff and service users collaborated with a creative team on a project “Getting the Message Across” to design three short animations. These hand-drawn animations pull no punches as they convey the true experience of five service users as they discuss the physical and emotional effects of eating disorders, the cycle of bingeing and purging associated with bulimia, and their road to recovery.