Diagnostic and Disorder Information

Anorexia Nervosa

A young person with Anorexia Nervosa is usually significantly under weght which is very dangerous to their health. They often have intense fear about gaining weight and view their body shape and size very negatively and critically. Anorexia nervosa makes a young person have very strong negative thoughts and emotions about food, eating and their appearance. These thoughts are much stronger than a typical young person who is worried about their weight or appearance. Anorexia nervosa is so strong that it will make eating a healthy amount of food very difficult for the young person, leading to starvation. In girls, this starvation makes the body so unwell that it will lead to the absence of regular menstruation and can stunt growth in both boys and girls.

Anorexia nervosa is a tormenting illness and can make a young person feel very stressed, lonely and misunderstood and scared. Most young people with anorexia nervosa don’t necessarily realise that it has taken over their thinking and behaviour and so they need their family to support them through treatment.

Bulimia Nervosa

A young person diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa will often binge eat and will feel out of control while doing so. This illness will then make the young person take extreme actions to avoid gaining weight like vomiting or doing excessive exercise. People with bulimia are also very critical of their body shape, size and weight. Often people with bulimia will be of an average weight which makes identification of this illness very difficult. Along with feeling out of control, a young person with bulimia nervosa often feels anxious and ashamed about their thoughts and behaviours regarding food and will keep them hidden.

Young people with bulimia need support, information and treatment that will help them regain a sense of control around their thoughts, food and eating patterns.

Binge Eating Disorder

A young person diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder will often binge eat (eat very large amounts of food quickly) and feel out of control while doing so. The binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
    • eating much more rapidly than normal
    • eating until feeling uncomfortably full
    • eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
    • eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
    • feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterwards

The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months.

Anxiety Disorder overview

All humans experience Anxiety. It serves as a means of protection and can often enhance our performance in stressful situations. Children who are able to experience the slight rush of anxiety that often occurs prior to a math test or a big track race often can enhance their performance. However, experiencing too much anxiety or general nervousness at certain times can be extremely distressing and interfering. Although children have fears of specific objects, the feeling of anxiety is more general…children may feel constantly “keyed up” or extremely alert. Given the wide range of tasks children must accomplish throughout their childhood, it is important to be sure that their level of anxiety does not begin to interfere with their ability to function. If it does, it is important that they begin to learn some skills for coping more efficiently with their anxious feelings.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worrying about a variety of events, including those in the past, present, and future. Children with this disorder worry excessively about a number of issues, including past conversations or actions, upcoming events, school, family health, their own health, competence in sports or academics, and world events. Typically, children experiencing such excessive worry find it difficult to control the amount of time that they worry as well as the worrying interfering in their daily life.

Panic Disorder

The key characteristic of Panic Disorder is recurring panic attacks and persistent concern or worry that an attack will lead to several more panic attacks, or physical or psychological harm. Children and teenagers who experience panic disorder can often begin to avoid going places, and engaging in activities, out of a fear that a panic attack might occur. A panic attack is defined as an episode of intense fear and unease, comprised of both physical symptoms and a number of fearful thoughts.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The essential features of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are recurrent obsessions (intrusive thoughts) and compulsions (repeated behaviors) that are time consuming and cause marked distress or significant impairment in daily functioning. Obsessions are persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and cause marked anxiety or distress.

Most common obsessions are repeated thoughts about contamination, doubting oneself, needing to have things in a particular order, or aggressive impulses. Usually, the child with obsessions tries to neutralize these disturbing thoughts with some other thought or action (a compulsion). Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking, praying, counting, repeating words silently), the goal of which is to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress, not to provide pleasure. In most cases, the person feels driven to perform the compulsion to reduce the feelings of distress that accompanies an obsession or to prevent some event from occurring.

Social Phobia

Social Phobia is an intense fear of becoming humiliated or embarrassed in social situations. It often begins around early adolescence, or even younger. Children who suffer from social phobia might appear to be excessively shy and may fear that they will do or say something in front of others that will promote embarrassment. Some children and adolescents believe that others are more competent than they are.

Common fears of children/adolescents with social phobia are fears of going to social situations such as parties, fears of talking with authority figures such as teacher or a principal, or fears of speaking to others in public. Other less common fears may involve fears of using a public restroom, fears of eating out or talking on the phone, or fears of writing on the blackboard in front of other peers. Social phobia is different from shyness. People with shyness can be uneasy around others, but they don’t necessarily avoid situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Social phobia disrupts a child’s normal life, interfering with school or social relationships.


An adolescent who has Depression may not show obvious signs. It is often hard to distinguish adolescent turmoil from depressive illness, especially when the young person is forging new roles within the family, struggling with independence, and having to make academic and career decisions.

Signs of a depressed mood include:
   • Lowered self-esteem (or self-worth)
   • Changes in sleep patterns, that is, insomnia (inability to sleep),
      hypersomnia (excessive sleep) or broken sleep
   • Changes in appetite or weight
   • Inability to control emotions such as pessimism, anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety

Common signs of depression among children in the years up to puberty can include:
   • a prolonged sad mood
   • a loss of interest in normal activities such as playing and games
   • withdrawal both at home and school
   • uncharacteristic behaviours such as stealing or bullying
   • tiredness, particularly in the afternoon
   • sleep disturbance
   • bed wetting
Source: blackdoginstitute.org.au



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Helpful Links

Family Based Treatment

Maudsley Parents

The Maudsley Parents website is run by volunteer parents who have helped their children recover from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa through the use of a family-based treatment. The website offers information, videos and research to help families help their children with eating disorders.


Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T) is an international organisation of and for parents and caregivers to help loved ones recover from eating disorders by providing information and mutual support.

Around The Dinner Table

Around the Dinner Table is an online community of parents of eating disorder patients around the world run by F.E.A.S.T. ATDT is a moderated 24/7 Forum that has connected and supported parents since 2004.

Mental Health

Beyond Blue for Youth

Beyond Blue for Youth provides information and strategies for helping young people deal with anxiety and depression.

Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind provides modern meditation for young people. It is a unique web and App-based program, designed to help bring balance to young lives. It is a not-for-profit initiative based on a process that provides a sense of clarity, calm and contentment.

Bullying No Way

Bullying No Way has information about managing and responding to bullying for parents, children and young people.

Reach Out for Youth

Reach Out for Youth aims to help young people get through tough times by providing an interactive website and advice on mental health issues.