Eating disorders are psychological conditions characterised by persistent, severe disturbances in a person's eating attitudes and behaviour.1 They come in various forms and affect people with a range of body weights and differing behavioural issues.
They can differ greatly in severity, sometimes involving severe psychological distress. Some, such as binge-eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia nervosa, are potentially life threatening and involve complex mental health issues.2
Around 1.6 million people in the UK are estimated to have an eating disorder.3 However, published incidence rates of eating disorders vary greatly, often because of the different methodologies, criteria and sizes of the studies.4 Prevalence and incidence data in the UK are usually higher in areas where specialist services for eating disorders are provided.4 The undesirable physical costs of dieting, weight loss and purging behaviours are notable.
Eating disorders often develop during adolescence and can ruin physical, social and academic development.5 However, they can develop at any stage in a person's life, including old age.6