eating disorders

What is an eating disorder?

It’s thought that about 6% of the UK population is living with an eating disorder at any given time. Most eating disorders develop during adolescence, although there are cases of eating disorders developing in children as young as six and adults in their 70’s. Eating disorders are most common in people between the ages of 16 and 40 years old, and affect mainly women although 25% of sufferers are men.

Having an eating disorder means that you have an unhealthy relationship with food. You might eat too much or too little, be obsessed with your weight or your body shape, or you might be hypervigilant about the kinds of food you eat. There are two schools of thought when it comes to eating disorders; some mental health professionals believe that it’s a mental health condition, while others feel that an eating disorder is a symptom of a mental health condition. Regardless, treatment is available.

What causes eating disorders?

While the exact causes of eating disorders aren’t fully understood, we do know that people may be more likely to get an eating disorder if:

  • They have an existing mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder
  • They have a history of drug or alcohol addiction
  • They have a family member who has a history of eating disorders, mental health issues or addiction
  • They have experienced criticism from parents, peers or others for their eating habits, body shape or weight
  • They’re overly concerned with their body image because of their social circle’s expectations or the demands of their profession (such as models, dancers or athletes)
  • They have low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
  • They have experienced a traumatic event such as childhood sexual abuse.

What are the signs that someone might have an eating disorder?

There are different types of eating disorders but in general, the following behaviours may be indicators that someone has a disordered relationship with food:

  • Spending the majority of time worrying about their weight and body shape
  • Avoiding situations where food might be served
  • Having very strict habits or rituals around food
  • Significant changes in mood, sometimes very unexpectedly
  • Being secretive about eating habits or food purchases
  • Becoming defensive when asked about their eating habits.

Treatments for eating disorders

Any type of eating disorder can be treated effectively with professional help and support. Before treatment can commence, the exact nature of the disorder needs to be identified and seeing your GP is the first person to speak to. Your GP will ask you about your eating habits and review your overall health. And because the impact on overall health as a result of the eating disorder isn’t always obvious, your GP may order some tests to determine the extent of any issues you might be experiencing. He or she will most likely assess your overall mental health as well to gain a fuller insight into your wellbeing. As a result of these tests, you may also be referred to a specialist for treatment.

Treatments may include:

  • Talking therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Dietary counselling with a dietician
  • Medication to help with any underlying mental health condition such as depression or anxiety
  • Help as an inpatient or outpatient at hospital.

Further resources you might find helpful

For adults over the age of 18

Beat Eating Disorders 

 

beateatingdisorders.org.uk 

 

0808 801 0677

  • A confidential helpline for anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by an eating disorder of any kind.
  • Online information, advice and guidance.
  • Peer coaching programme.
  • Online support groups.
  • Local services finder.

For young people under the age of 25

Young Minds

 

youngminds.org.uk

 

0808 802 5544

 

 

  • A confidential helpline for anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by an eating disorder of any kind.
  • Online information, advice and guidance.
  • Peer support programme.
  • Online support groups.
  • Local services finder.

 

For adults and young people living with anorexia or bulimia

Anorexia & Bulimia Care (ABC)

 

anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk

 

03000 11 12 13

 

  • A confidential helpline for anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by anorexia or bulimia.
  • Online information, advice and guidance.
  • Befriending programme.
  • Online support groups.
  • Local services finder.