Many adolescents and young adults struggle with intense preoccupations about food, and their weight and body image. This can lead to behaviours such as severely restringing the daily intake of food and liquids, excessive exercising, self-induced vomiting, and avoiding food-related places or social activities (such as parties or restaurants). When these behaviours become too frequent, an eating disorder is diagnosed.
Eating disorders can affect both genders but are more common in women. They usually start between the ages of 10 and 19. If untreated, eating disorders can greatly impair a person’s healthy growth and development, leading to long-term physical consequences that put his or her life at-risk.
Many young people with eating disorders do not receive support until late, when their physical health has been greatly affected. Not surprisingly, eating disorders are included among the priority mental health issues for young people by the World Health Organisation.