Eating disorders


Eating disorders refer to a range of disorders that are characterised by disturbances of eating behaviours such as eating very little, eating excessively, or purging. Core beliefs are often held focussing around food, eating and body image perception.

Types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge-eating disorder (BED), and avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). ARFID (previously known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, EDNOS) is distinguished by a fear of eating or disinterest in food rather than a preoccupation with body image and weight.

The lifetime prevalence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is around 1-2% in women and approximately 0.5% in men, and binge eating disorder occurs in around 3.5% in women and 2.0% in men.

Eating disorders frequently co-occur with other mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Patients with anorexia have the highest mortality rates of patients with any psychiatric disorder (historically 20% compared with 10% for depression and 10% for schizophrenia; but more recently reduced to 5% with earlier and more effective intervention).

Early detection and treatment of eating disorders (especially within the first 3 years of illness onset) is important to improve long-term outcomes for the patient.

Learning objectives:

  • Recognise the diagnosis of anorexia nervos.
  • Recognise the diagnosis of bulimia nervosa.
  • Understand the potential long-term consequences of eating disorders.
  • Recognise the common physical and physiological changes that may be seen in eating disorders.
  • Know how to assess a patient suspected of having an eating disorder.
  • Understand the referral criteria and process for eating disorders.


Once you have completed this short course and quiz, please click 'submit' where you will be taken to the results page. From here you can print your certificate for 1 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hour.


This content was created by Dr Karen Falloon PhD, MBChB, FRNZCGP for the Goodfellow Unit (2019). It was reviewed by Dr Hiran Thabrew, Child psychiatrist, Paediatrician and Senior Lecturer (ADHB and the University of Auckland).

The material is presented by the Goodfellow Unit (GFU), an accredited continuing medical education/ continuing professional development (CME/CPD) provider for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and functions under a tripartite agreement between the Goodfellow Foundation, the College and the University of Auckland. The Unit is located within the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, and within the School of Population Health.


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