Our top tips!
- Know the signs
Knowing the common signs of eating disorders can help you to spot any problems quickly and get the help you need. Seeking help early can increase your chances of a full recovery and improve your quality of life.
- Break the silence
It’s important that you bring up your concerns with a trustworthy adult (such as a teacher or your parents) or confide in your friends. If you speak to your GP, they can refer you to specialist services. The waiting lists for these services can be very long, so it is helpful to begin the referral process as early as possible.
- Make a food diary
Making a food diary will allow you to keep track of what you’re eating. If you add emotions, possible triggers, locations and who you were with at the time, you may be able to identify your personal triggers and start to manage them better. The Rise Up app is useful if you don’t want to keep a handwritten diary. Noting all of this down now will be extremely useful for any professionals that you may see in the future.
What are eating disorders?
Lots of people have different eating patterns. You may eat more one day and less another, or eat more healthily on certain days, but this does not mean you have an eating disorder. However, if you worry about how much you’re eating or what you’re eating, or have constant urges to eat or restrict your diet, you may need some support.
When people think of eating disorders, they most commonly think of Anorexia or Bulimia. However, there are also many other types of eating disorder, including Binge-Eating Disorder, ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), Pica and EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). Eating disorders can affect anyone at any age. However, most forms of eating disorder typically develop during adolescence, whereas ARFID is typically present from very early childhood.
There is no one cause for any type of eating disorder. Often, it is a result of a range of different stressful circumstances in your life. For example, you may be experiencing social pressure to be ‘skinny’ or ‘curvy’. Alternatively, you may be experiencing family difficulties or other mental health problems. Fortunately, many sources of support are available. These may be different for each type of eating disorder.
Many people suffer from an eating disorder without even realising, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and spot them early. Managing symptoms with support can significantly improve your physical and emotional health and your overall quality of life.
What should I do if I have an eating disorder?
Eating disorders can be very difficult to understand and to manage, especially on your own. It can also be unclear where to seek help. You may feel that it’s not something you can talk to others about, or that they may not understand what you’re going through.
People are often reluctant to speak to others about what they are experiencing, but doing so is an important first step to recovery. Even if you don’t fully understand your situation or don’t think it’s very serious, it’s important to speak to someone as soon as possible. Just like how it’s harder to break a habit when you’ve been doing it for a while, if you’re suffering with an eating disorder, managing your symptoms can become more difficult over time. Thankfully, many organisations are available to offer support and guidance:
- Beat offers information and guidance, and also has a helpline that specialises in supporting individuals with an eating disorder.
- SANE offers useful support and information around anorexia and bulimia.
- Weight Matters provides an assessment over the phone and offers tailored support.
- SEED has lots of information and an advice line to answer questions.
- You can also speak to our mentors, who will always listen to your concerns without judgement and provide you with support.
What signs should I look out for?
- Dramatic weight loss
- Missing meals
- Cutting food into tiny pieces to disguise how little they’ve eaten
- Taking appetite suppressants
- Wearing baggy clothing to hide weight loss
- Social withdrawal
- Counting calories excessively
- Chewing and spitting food
- Vomiting or misusing laxatives
- Excessive exercise
- Binge eating
- Social isolation
- Thinking obsessively about weight
- Bad teeth
- Sore throat
- Chewing and spitting food
- Going to the bathroom after eating
- Not eating enough food
- Eating slowly
- Fears of choking or vomiting
- Avoiding particular types of food or limiting variety
- Lack of interest in food
- Anxious around mealtimes
- Sensitive to textures
- Common in autistic individuals
- Eating a large amount of food in a short time
- Eating to escape bad feelings
- Eating alone; fear of eating in public
- Hiding food for later
- Frequent dieting
- Altering schedule to make time for bingeing
This diagnosis is given to people who have a compulsive desire to eat non-food items that have no nutritional benefit.
This eating disorder can be dangerous, and seems to be associated with iron-deficiency anaemia and developmental disorders.
This diagnosis is given when the characteristics of your eating disorder don’t quite fit the diagnosis criteria for a specific eating disorder.
Nonetheless, sufferers do still have an eating disorder – it can be just as serious and requires treatment.
How can I help somebody with an eating disorder?
If you think your friend is suffering, you’re already doing a great job by trying to learn more about how you can support them. The best way to support them will be to offer to go with them to confide in an adult. They may not be ready to speak to someone, so you can support them in other ways too. Try to include them in activities even if they don’t want to join. It is nice for them to be asked to go shopping with you or to watch a movie, but make sure they know they don’t have to go.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is be there to listen to them and give them your time. You don’t need to give advice and don’t criticise them, but lending a listening ear and ensuring they know you’re there for them will provide some comfort for your friend.
There are numerous online charities and organisations that offer support and guidance to individuals’ families and friends. In particular, Anorexia & Bulimia Care provides email and phone support for families and friends of people suffering from an eating disorder. You can also speak to our mentors about your situation. They will be happy to listen to your concerns and help you find ways to support those around you.
I think I might need some help... what do I do?
If you have been reading this page and are worried that you may have an eating disorder, it is important that you reach out to somebody. There are many organisations that provide information and guidance, and there are also plenty of people who will be willing to listen to you and support you.
You should mention your struggles to someone you trust as soon as you can, to increase your chances of a full recovery.
Speak to us
You don’t need to suffer in silence. If you think that you might be suffering with any mental health condition and would like to talk to someone, our friendly mentors will always be on hand to talk with you about anything that you might need.
Speak to somebody that you trust
You should speak to someone you trust about your experience as soon as possible. They will be able to listen to you and help you to understand , as well as pointing you towards resources or services that can help you. Whether you speak to a teacher, parent or friend, this is a very positive step.
Speak to a doctor
If you worried that your case might be serious, you should see a GP as soon as possible. They will be able to put you in contact with a specialist who can help you to recover. There can be very long waiting times, so you should start the process early. This will also give you the greatest chance of full recovery.
Seeking professional help
A range of different services may be used for the treatment of eating disorders. You can receive treatment as an inpatient (such as at a residential facility, under supervision most or all of the time) or as an outpatient (remaining at home but travelling to meet with medical professionals regularly). Possible professionals who could be included in your care are:
- A case coordinator/manager is in charge of managing communicating between services and different professionals.
- An occupational therapist may help you to combat possible sensory issues around food or to prepare food and plan meals. They may also help you to set weekly goals.
- A cognitive behavioural therapist will support you in identifying warning signs of relapse, possible triggers and any underlying mental health disorders. They will also help you to change negative thought patterns around food.
- A dietician will help you create a meal plan to suit your current situation, what foods you eat and your goals. It can then be updated as you go through your treatment. This person may also carry out your regular weigh-ins, blood pressure checks, blood tests and heart rate checks, but in some cases they may be carried out by a nurse or other professional.