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Eating Disorders

The below information is purely for educational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. This content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

What is an Eating Disorder?

Medical Cannabis for Eating DisordersEating disorders, also known as appetite disorders, are mental health conditions relating to a disturbance in eating behaviours. Those who suffer with an eating disorder often experience distressing emotions associated with food and feel they need to have strict control over the consumption of their food. Disordered eating can consist of restrictive eating, irregular eating, and compulsive eating.

What are the Signs of an Eating Disorder?

The signs of an eating disorder can vary depending on the type, but common signs include:

  • Strict eating habits and eating the same foods
  • Avoiding social situations involving food
  • Excessive exercise and obsessing over weight and appearance
  • Feelings of guilt in relation to food
  • Restricting food and eating very little
  • Binge eating
  • Purging
  • Change in mood and low self-esteem
  • Dramatic weight change
  • Misuse of medications to try and lose weight

Types of Eating Disorders

There are many different types of disordered eating, the most common being:

  • Anorexia nervosa – obsessive weight control by restrictive eating and/or over exercising.
  • Bulimia – loss of control over eating and then taking extreme action to avoid weight gain.
  • Binge eating disorder (BED) – loss of control and consuming a large amount of food until uncomfortably full
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (AFID) – avoiding certain types of food or restrict consumption of food overall.
  • Atypical eating disorders (also known as other specified feeding or eating disorder [OSFED]) – this is when an individual has an eating disorder which does not meet the precise criteria of a specific eating disorder.

What Causes an Eating Disorder?

It is not known why a person develops an eating disorder. However, there is a complex relationship between predisposing traits, triggering factors, and recurring negative or positive feedback in relation to habits intended to provide weight loss. Observational research shows people may be predisposed to developing eating disorders if:

  • They or a family member has a history of an eating disorder, depression or addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • They have been subjected to negative comments on their body size or shape, or subject to criticism or remarks on their eating habits
  • They have external pressure or influence due to their job
  • They suffer from anxiety or low self-esteem
  • They have an obsessive personality or strive for perfection (even when unrealistic)
  • They have suffered sexual abuse

How is an Eating Disorder Diagnosed?

A GP assessment is carried out to review how the patient is feeling, their eating habits, height, and weight. The GP may then refer them to an eating disorder specialist or a specialist team for further support depending on the severity of the condition.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Medical cannabis for appetite disorders.

Recovery from an eating disorder can be challenging and a long process, but the earlier the person suffering reaches out for help and is given the support they need the better. There is no one treatment for all eating disorders, and the support required will depend on the severity of the situation and the type of eating disorder. Recovery often involves trying to consume a balanced eating pattern and addressing any underlying psychological problems.
There are a range of psychological treatment approaches, which may include: motivational therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy.

Eating Disorders and Medicinal Cannabis

Research into the effect of medicinal cannabis on eating disorders is limited. However, following the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, there has been a rise in people looking towards medical cannabis. When first-line therapies have not proved effective at reducing symptoms, medical cannabis may be considered an option for eating disorders.
For further information and to find out more about medical cannabis, click here to discover more about our award-winning Curaleaf Access Scheme. Alternatively, complete an eligibility assessment now. Once complete, one of our clinicians will review your application and advise whether you are eligible for progression to an appointment.

Table of Contents

Frequently Asked Questions about Eating Disorders

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It is estimated that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are known to be more prevalent among women more than men, however, many men still suffer with the disordered eating.

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Booking an appointment with a GP is often the first step to gain support from eating disorder specialists if necessary. Providing a supportive, non-judgemental environment before and after diagnosis is important in helping a person to realise they have an eating disorder and to undertake treatment.
A GP may also be able to recommend self-help techniques at home for people who need help, but don’t need to see a specialist.

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An eating disorder can completely impact the life of the person suffering as well as those around them. Those with eating disorders can struggle to concentrate on anything other than food, it can completely consume their mind and take over day-to-day life.
Eating disorders can trigger physical health problems. These are often due to low body weight itself or imbalances/deficiencies in key electrolytes or nutrients.

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It is not known why a person develops an eating disorder. However, there is a complex relationship between predisposing traits, triggering factors, and recurring negative or positive feedback in relation to habits intended to provide weight loss. Observational research shows people may be predisposed to developing eating disorders if:

  • They or a family member has a history of an eating disorder, depression or addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • They have been subjected to negative comments on their body size or shape, or subject to criticism or remarks on their eating habits
  • They have external pressure or influence due to their job
  • They suffer from anxiety or low self-esteem
  • They have an obsessive personality or strive for perfection (even when unrealistic)
  • They have suffered sexual abuse