Serious eating difficulties are called eating disorders

Young woman in window

There are many different types of eating disorders and all of them are about how someone may use food and eating as a way of coping with things. Eating disorders are not diets gone wrong or just something that affects teenage girls, they are a serious mental illness that can affect girls or boys of any age, from any background.

Eating disorders can make you feel very lonely. Often, the eating disorder can be very difficult to fight on your own, as it can be very strong and make you feel very bad about yourself.

Types of eating disorder and symptoms

  • Anorexia: This is when someone may restrict the amount they eat and drink because of many reasons – including fear of weight gain, anxiety, poor body image and self-esteem – as a way to punish themselves or as a way of trying to keep some control over life.
  • Bulimia: This is when someone may binge (eat large amounts of food) and then purge (making the body to get rid of this food such as my being sick.) Like anorexia, this is often due to feelings of fear, anxiety, self-esteem or to try and keep some control over life.
  • There are other eating disorders and reasons why someone may find it difficult to eat, including feeling a compulsion to eat in certain patterns (like OCD), having a fear of eating following a bad experience like choking, overeating to manage emotions. Some people may also have a desire to eat none food items like chalk, soil and paint (this is called PICA.)

Top tips

  • Talk to someone: We know that talking to someone about what you are experiencing is helpful – it’s easier to manage with someone else on your side.
  • Health check-ups: Because of the impact that eating disorders can have on the body, it is really important to have regular health check-ups with your doctor.
  • Healthy steps forward: If you have not eaten for some time, make sure you seek advice from a professional about reintroducing food slowly into your day. Sometimes when people begin eating again quickly, there’s a risk of something called re-feeding syndrome which can be dangerous.
  • Family support: If you are the parent, friend or sibling of a young person with an eating disorder it can be very difficult for you too. Please make sure you seek support to talk about things so that you can support your child/sibling/friend as best as you can. It can be really tough for families, you need support too.

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Extra information

  • B-eat is a fantastic website dedicated to helping people understand eating disorders. You can also access support from B-eat staff and also talk to other people that are living with eating disorders on the online message boards.
  • Mind has some easy to understand information about eating disorders.