An eating disorder is when you have an unhealthy attitude to food, which can take over your life and make you ill.
It can involve eating too much or too little or becoming obsessed with your weight and body shape. But there are treatments that can help, and you can recover from an eating disorder.
Men and women of any age can get an eating disorder, but they most commonly affect young women aged 13 to 17 years old.
The most common eating disorders are:
- anorexia nervosa – when you try to keep your weight as low as possible by not eating enough food, exercising too much, or both
- bulimia – when you sometimes lose control and eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binging) and are then deliberately sick, use laxatives (medication to help you poo), restrict what you eat, or do too much exercise to try to stop yourself gaining weight
- binge eating disorder (BED) – when you regularly lose control of your eating, eat large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and are then often upset or guilty
- other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) – when your symptoms don’t exactly match those of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, but it doesn’t mean it’s a less serious illness
OSFED is the most common, then binge eating disorder and bulimia. Anorexia is the least common.
If you or people around you are worried that you have an unhealthy relationship with food that’s affecting your eating habits, you could have an eating disorder.
Symptoms of eating disorders include:
- spending a lot of time worrying about your weight and body shape
- avoiding socialising when you think food will be involved
- eating very little food
- deliberately making yourself sick or taking laxatives after you eat
- exercising too much
- having very strict habits or routines around food
- changes in your mood
You may also notice physical signs, including:
- feeling cold, tired or dizzy
- problems with your digestion
- your weight being very high or very low for someone of your age and height
- not getting your period for women and girls
It’s important to remember that even if your symptoms do not exactly match those for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, you may still have an eating disorder.
Warning signs of an eating disorder in someone else
It can often be very difficult to identify that a loved one or friend has developed an eating disorder.
Warning signs to look out for include:
- dramatic weight loss
- lying about how much and when they’ve eaten, or how much they weigh
- eating a lot of food very fast
- going to the bathroom a lot after eating, often returning looking flushed
- excessively or obsessively exercising
- avoiding eating with others
- cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly
- wearing loose or baggy clothes to hide their weight loss
If you think you may have an eating disorder, even if you aren’t sure, see your GP as soon as you can.
For further information about symptoms and treatment, please visit the NHS website that this page has been taken from, click here