An eating disorder is more than just about food. It is a type of mental illness that involves unhealthy thoughts and behaviours towards food, weight, and your body shape. If you have an eating disorder, you might worry so much about food that you aren’t able to work, go to school, or enjoy time with friends.
Why are eating disorders dangerous?
Eating disorders can do a lot of damage to your health. People with eating disorders often don’t get the nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy and work properly. For example, people with eating disorders are at risk of heart or kidney failure leading to death if they are not treated.
“The harder I held on to the food, or lack of it, the faster I lost myself. I could see nothing but ED. I knew nothing but ED and I just couldn’t stop. As my body began to fail…as I began to fail…I believed with all of my being I was a failure.” ~ Melanie
Some symptoms of anorexia nervosa are:
- thin, weak bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
- hair and nails that break easily
- dry and yellowish skin
- fine hair growing all over the body (lanugo)
- low iron levels and weak muscles
- low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
- drop in body temperature, feel cold all the time
- lack of energy
- (for girls and women) not having periods
Some symptoms of bulimia nervosa are:
- sore throat
- swollen glands in the neck and under the jaw
- decay in tooth enamel and very sensitive teeth
- pain in the stomach and intestine
- kidney failure
People who try to get rid of calories after they eat by throwing up (or other forms of purging) will have many of these symptoms.
People with binge-eating disorder (BED) often binge on foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt. This kind of diet can lead to weight gain, and some people with BED are overweight or obese. As a result, people with BED are at risk of developing:
- type 2 diabetes
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- digestive problems
- heart problems
Some of these complications can also be caused by an unhealthy eating pattern —for example, frequent dieting.
“I was no longer Amy. I was an eating disorder, a lying, destructive, conniving eating disorder. It was an out of body experience, a loss of control so intense that I can’t even imagine behaving that way now.” ~Amy
- Helping Someone with an Eating Disorder ( English )
- How to help a friend with eating and body image issues ( English )
- Parent Toolkit: Supporting a loved one with an Eating Disorder ( English )
- Coach and Athletic Trainer Toolkit ( English )
- What Should I Say? Tips for Talking to a Friend Who May Be Struggling with an Eating Disorder ( English )
- Guidelines for School Staff: Helping a Student with a Suspected Eating Disorder ( English )
- Eating Disorders Information for Carers ( English )
Treatment in BC 101
In BC, there are many different options for individuals looking for help or treatment for an eating disorder. If you haven’t already, a good first step is to visit your family doctor (if you do not have a family doctor, you can access a doctor through a walk-in clinic). The doctor can do an initial assessment, and will be able to refer you to appropriate supports based on that assessment.
In the Treatment Options section of the site, a number of different treatment possibilities are discussed. Note that depending on where you live in BC and the results of your initial assessment, treatment options may vary. If your doctor feels that referral to treatment is warranted, you would typically be referred to an eating disorders program within your community. To see a list of Eating Disorders programs by community, visit our Program Locator.
The Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre is available to explain these options to you, and what you can expect if you are entering treatment. Whatever stage of the journey you are at, if you have questions about treatment in BC, contact the Kelty Centre to speak to someone about your options.
- Eating Disorders Toolkit for BC Practitioners ( English )
- BC Clinical Practice Guidelines ( English )
- Referral Guidelines and Referral Form Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Programs ( English )
- Inventory of Eating Disorders Treatment Programs in BC ( English )
- Free/Low Cost listing of Eating Disorder Support Groups in BC ( English )