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Home / Advice / Eating Disorder / Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

By: Sarah Walsh

Updated: 19 October 2015

Eating Disorders

According to the Department of Health, up to 200,000 people in Ireland are affected by eating disorders. This high number sheds light on the importance of identifying the factors that lead to the development of eating disorders in order to establish methods of preventing them.

Eating disorders often do a great deal of harm to those affected by them. Recognising the ways in which psychology, culture and environment can contribute to the development of eating disorders could be a stepping stone in helping to reduce the high rates of these mental illnesses in Ireland.

There is no single reason behind the origin of all eating disorders. Many elements can play a part in the development of an eating disorder, including genetics, biochemical factors, psychological factors, cultural factors and environmental factors (Polivy & Herman, 2002).

Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or in young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. A brief description of each follows below:

Anorexia nervosa

Some common characteristics include:

  • Excessive exercise and possible purging (self-induced vomiting)
  • Thoughts of food and the need to lose weight may preoccupy an individual’s mind.
  • An unhealthy determination and effort to attain a bodyweight below what is considered normal for the person’s age, sex and height.
Bulimia nervosa

Some common characteristics include:

  • An individual will purge themselves of any food eaten (this may come following a food binge), or more commonly, after ‘normal’ food intake.
  • The person may be engaging in fasting, excessive exercising, self-induced vomiting, and/or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics or other medications – all which may be dangerous to the body.
  • Those suffering from bulimia may maintain their body weight at or below the range perceived as normal for their age, sex and height categories, meaning that bulimia can be less obvious than anorexia and can go unnoticed for longer.
Binge-eating disorder

Some common characteristics include:

  • The person is likely to engage in recurrent episodes of bingeing without purging, which may last for a prolonged period of time
  • The individual is likely to gain a substantial amount of weight over time – if left untreated, this may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
  • The person may find themselves trapped in a cycle of dieting, bingeing, self-recrimination and self-loathing. It is worth noting that just because an individual might not fit into one of the three descriptions listed above does not necessarily mean that they do not have an eating disorder.

There are many individuals with eating disorders who do not fit within one of the three disorders listed above. Many people also believe that only women suffer from eating disorders, but at least 10-15% of people with eating disorders are male. Without treatment, eating disorders can trap individuals into a destructive cycle of emotional and physical decline, with the disorder taking on a life of its own – early intervention is therefore important.

Treating eating disorders requires attention to both the physical and psychological aspects of the individual who is suffering. Mental health professionals are trained to uncover and subsequently understand the emotional background of clients suffering from eating disorders – this is crucial in developing an appropriate strategic response and treatment approach.

Below are the members of our team who can help if you are living with an eating disorder. To make an appointment, call us at 076 680 1060 or email


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