What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a type of mental health challenge that involves extreme food or weight preoccupation and eating behaviours that are harmful to physical and mental health. There are strict criteria to define clinically diagnosable eating disorders, and many eating disorders go undiagnosed. We encourage you to get support for disordered eating thoughts and behaviours, whether or not you have a clinical diagnosis.

Definitions help health professionals understand how each condition develops and progresses, and how to treat people with similar symptoms.

Eating disorder diagnostic criteria from the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) cover the following diagnoses, among others:

  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
  • Rumination disorder
  • Pica
  • Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED) – includes atypical anorexia nervosa and night eating syndrome
  • Unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED)

For more information on signs, symptoms, and diagnoses, please visit the National Eating Disorder Information Centre’s site here.

Please note that while the DSM is used for diagnosing, these illnesses and experiences can occur along a continuum and you do not require a diagnosis to access our services. If you are living with disordered eating or body image distress and do not have a DSM diagnosis, you can still join our groups.