Trigger Warning – some of the content below may trigger some unpleasant emotions.
On this page we outline:
- What is an eating disorder?
- Types of eating disorder
- Signs of eating disorder
- Tips when speaking to someone you are worried about
What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a relationship with food that feels out of control.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder regardless of age, race, gender or background.
Eating disorders can develop as
- a way of coping with feelings and emotions, stress and demands on life.
- insecurities that we have about our bodies – wanting to have that perfect body image that society and the media portray as beautiful.
“Boys get eating disorders too, not just girls.”
Boys can develop an eating disorder by becoming obsessed with working out and restricting their diets to achieve an “ideal” muscle physique.
The video below ‘Do men get eating disorders?’ offers encouragement to guys who are struggling to seek support.
Most common types of eating disorders that affect young people
- Anorexia Nervosa – A person who restricts the amount they eat and drink, deliberately starving themselves of food.
- Bulimia Nervosa – A person who ‘binge’ eats and then makes themselves sick.
- Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – A person who loses control and regularly overeats, consuming large amounts of food over a short period of time (binging). They eat even when they are not hungry.
- Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), – A person avoids certain foods or types of foods.
What are the signs of an eating disorder in someone?
- Being very picky about food
- Not eating with others
- Hiding uneaten food
- Going to the toilet after a meal
- Baggy clothes
- Always tired
- Depressed and anxious
“Eating disorders are secretive and tied up with guilt and shame. They are dangerous –you can die from an eating disorder.”
This video ‘Eating disorders – Talking about mental health’ is from Mind which shows young people talking about their experience of eating problems such as anorexia, restrictive eating, binging and purging.
For speaking to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder
Things NOT to say to someone with an eating disorder
- Don’t comment on their body size.
- Don’t praise them for being skinny – You’re only increasing their belief that being thinner will make them more worthy.
- Don’t tell them to just eat something – An eating disorder is a mental health illness – it’s not about food.
- Don’t comment on their food choices – It will make them feel uneasy that you’re watching them eat.
What you can say instead:
- Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?
- No one is perfect, go easy on yourself.
- I like you no matter what.
- I’m here for you, I can go with you to talk to someone.
Where can I get help?
If you are struggling with an eating problem don’t hide it, you should seek urgent help:
- Visit your GP – Anything you talk about is kept confidential between you and your doctor.
- Contact the Emotional Wellbeing Hub on 0345 600 2090 and press option 3, to be referred for support if you’re a young person living in East and West Suffolk, Or contact Just One Norfolk on 0300 300 0123 for support if you live in Lowestoft and Waveney.
- Contact Wednesday Child – Local charity that supports peers and families with eating disorder experiences and recovery journey.
- Suffolk Mind Eating Recovery Service The service is open to those aged 18+ who live in Suffolk (excluding Waveney)
- Contact Beat Eating Disorders Charity Helpline on 0808 801 0677. Their website has advice on how to get treatment for an eating disorder
- The Mix is a website for young people which has a range of advice about eating disorders, as well as live chat with experts,
- YoungMinds – eating problems
- Youthtalkhealth.org and their page myths about eating disorders.
- Books to help you with eating disorders
- Body image
Podcasts that help:
What is Pro-ana?
Pro-ana (pro-anorexia) or pro-ed (pro-eating disorders) websites or ‘thinspiration’ blogs and Facebook pages are online communities where people with eating disorders go to post pictures of themselves and share tips for losing weight.
These pro-ana sites can be really harmful and negative places for young people – especially if you’re a young person struggling with low self-esteem or being bullied.
Find out more, go to our Pro-ana advice page
Body image is how we think and feel about ourselves physically, and how we believe others see us.
Most eating disorders occur because of negative feelings about the way our body look.
Find out more on our Body Image advice page.
Page updated on September 7th, 2023 at 10:25am