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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a group of mental illnesses that affect the way you feel about food, the way you feel about your body, and yourself. They lead to dangerous eating behaviours. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders can harm the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth, and mouth, and lead to other diseases, too. They often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages too. 

An eating disorder is dangerous, but treatable. With help, you can return to healthier eating habits and even reverse the complications caused by the eating disorder.
 

What is normal?

Today’s culture has become image-obsessed, so many of us worry about putting on weight or wish we looked different. And, many of us turn to food when we’re feeling lonely, bored, or stressed. These are all pretty normal behaviours. But if your eating habits have been overtaken by a preoccupation with your body, body image, or weight, you may have an eating disorder.

 

What are common signs and symptoms?

Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder.

 

Anorexia nervosa

  • Feeling fat even if you’re underweight
  • Fixation on body image 
  • Harshly critical of appearance
  • Denial that you’re too thin
  • Dieting despite being thin
  • Dramatic weight loss 
  • Using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics 
  • Throwing up after eating 
  • Compulsive exercising 
  • Obsession with calories, fat, and nutrition 
  • Pretending to eat or lying about eating 
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Strange or secretive food rituals 

 

Bulimia nervosa

  • Lack of control over eating
  • Secrecy around eating
  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Disappearance of food
  • Alternating between overeating and fasting
  • Going to the bathroom after meals
  • Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
  • Smell of vomit
  • Excessive exercising
  • Calluses or scars on knuckles or hands from inducing vomiting
  • Discoloured teeth from exposure to stomach acid when throwing up
  • Frequent fluctuations in weight

 

Binge-eating disorder

  • Inability to stop eating or control what you eat
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you’re full
  • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
  • Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
  • Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes
  • Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating
  • Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
  • Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
  • Desperation to control weight and eating habits

 

Should I seek help?

An eating disorder can be difficult to manage or overcome by yourself. Eating disorders can virtually take over your life. If you're experiencing any of these problems, or if you think you may have an eating disorder, seek medical help.

Many people with eating disorders may not think they need treatment. If you're worried about a loved one, urge him or her to talk to a doctor. Even if your loved one isn't ready to acknowledge having an issue with food, you can open the door by expressing concern and a desire to listen.

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Mental Health 101

Knowledge is power. This series of free online tutorials is a starting point for learning about mental health.​ You can come away with a greater understanding of the mental health concern you are interested in knowing more about.

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IWK Mental Health and Addictions Program

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The IWK Mental Health and  Addictions Program provides specialized care throughout the province for children and youth up until their 19th birthday within a patient and family...

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Canadian Mental Health Association - Colchester East Hants Branch

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The Canadian Mental Health Association, Colchester East Hants Branch provides public education, advocacy, and a resource center to support the resiliency and recovery of...

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Canadian Mental Health Association - Halifax-Dartmouth Branch

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The Canadian Mental Health Association, Halifax-Dartmouth Branch works at the community level and facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve...

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Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division

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Canadian Mental Health Associations in Nova Scotia are the oldest community-based mental health and addictions charitable organizations in the province, founded in 1908. The...

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Healthy Minds Cooperative

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Healthy Minds Cooperative is an innovative mental health cooperative that provides a variety of peer-based services to people with lived experience of mental health issues and...

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Eskasoni Mental Health

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Eskasoni Mental Health Services (EMHS) provides a wide range of services to the Mi’kmaq people of Eskasoni, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Tui'kn Residential School Survivor...

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Eating Disorders Of Nova Scotia (EDNS)

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Eating Disorders Nova Scotia (EDNS) is a community based organization that offers peer support for individuals with eating disorders, and for their families, friends and...

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Caregivers Nova Scotia

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Caregivers Nova Scotia provides free programs, services, information, and advocacy for family and friend caregivers. We are dedicated to providing recognition and practical assistance to friends and family giving care.

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Kids Help Phone

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Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. We offer professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young...

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211

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211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that can connect you to thousands of programs and services offered by local community groups, nonprofits and government departments across Nova Scotia, 24/7.

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Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services - Mental Health Programs and Services

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Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) is responsible for administering Non-Public Property (NPP) on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and for delivering...

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Veterans Affairs Canada Assitance Service

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Veterans Affairs provide targeted services and benefits to improve well-being including support and services related to your physical and mental health and wellness.The VAC...

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Health Psychology

Health Psychology offers psychological interventions for those with chronic and acute health conditions. The main focus is on the patient's mental and emotional reaction to an illness or their recovery from an illness.

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Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Program

Seniors mental health services provide assessment, consultation and treatments to:

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Adult Neurodevelopmental Stabilization Unit - Dual Diagnosis Program (Intellectual Disability in combination with Mental Illness)

The Adult Neurodevelopmental Stabilization Unit (ANSU) is an acute care unit that provides services for persons with intellectual disability and acute mental illness that...

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Community Outreach Assessment Support and Treatment Team (COAST) - Dual Diagnosis Program (Intellectual Disability in combination with Mental Illness)

The community outreach assessment support and treatment team provides services for persons with both intellectual disability and also mental illness. These services include:

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Seniors Mental Health Services

Seniors mental health services provide assessment, consultation and treatments to:

- seniors aged 65 and older for a new onset of mental health challenges;
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School Mental Health (SchoolsPlus)

The school mental health clinicians provide individual and group therapy, mental health and addictions education for school staff and consultation services. Clinicians are on...

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Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line

The Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis or mental distress.

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Inpatient Mental Health Services

Inpatient mental health services are available for those who cannot be safely assessed, diagnosed and stabilized in the community. 

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First Nations Services

Mental Health clinicians work as part of the first nations health care team in several first nations communities. The Mental Health Clinician provides assessment, diagnosis...

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Eating Disorder Program

The Eating Disorders Program helps people overcome anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders. The clinic offers a variety of treatment options through...

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Adult Community Mental Health and Addictions Services

Community Mental Health and Addictions includes a team of mental health and addictions professionals who provide services on an outpatient basis. The team provides assessment...

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Child and Adolescent Services

Child and Adolescent Services/Child Youth and Family/Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinical Services provide mental health and addiction services to children and youth...

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