An eating disorder is a mental health condition where you use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations.
Unhealthy eating behaviours may include eating too much or too little or worrying about your weight or body shape.
Anyone can get an eating disorder, but teenagers between 13 and 17 are mostly affected.
With treatment, most people can recover from an eating disorder.
Those with Autism may appear to have an eating disorder but this could be linked to Sensory Processing difficulties and issues with the Gustatory system . It is important to find out what is causing the difficulties. to do this you can visit your GP or we offer a sensory profile that can help identify any of these difficulties.
Types of Eating Disorder
Anorexia is an eating disorder and serious mental health condition.
People who have anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because they start to starve.
They often have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they're fat even when they're underweight.
Men and women of any age can get anorexia, but it's most common in young women and typically starts in the mid-teens.
Bulimia is an eating disorder and mental health condition.
People who have bulimia go through periods where they eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binge eating) and then make themselves sick, use laxatives (medicine to help them poo) or do excessive exercise, or a combination of these, to try to stop themselves gaining weight.
Anyone can get bulimia, but it is more common in young people aged 13 to 17.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
Binge eating disorder involves regularly eating a lot of food over a short period of time until you're uncomfortably full.
Binges are often planned in advance, usually done alone, and may include "special" binge foods. You may feel guilty or ashamed after binge eating.
Men and women of any age can get binge eating disorder, but it usually starts in the late teens or early 20s.
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are diagnosed using a list of expected behavioural, psychological, and physical symptoms. Sometimes a person’s symptoms don’t exactly fit the expected symptoms for any of these three specific eating disorders. In that case, they might be diagnosed with an “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED).
This is very common. OSFED accounts for the highest percentage of eating disorders, and anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background can experience it. It is every bit as serious as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, and can develop from or into another diagnosis. People suffering from OSFED need and deserve treatment just as much as anyone else with an eating disorder.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is when someone avoids certain foods, limits how much they eat or does both.
Beliefs about weight or body shape are not reasons why people develop ARFID.
Possible reasons for ARFID include:
- negative feelings over the smell, taste or texture of certain foods
- a response to a past experience with food that was upsetting, for example, choking or being sick after eating something
- not feeling hungry or just a lack of interest in eating
Check if you have an eating disorder
If you or people around you are worried that you have an unhealthy relationship with food, 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
- making yourself sick or taking laxatives after you eat
- exercising too much
- having very strict habits or routines around food
- changes in your mood such as being withdrawn, anxious or depressed
You may also notice physical signs, including:
- feeling cold, tired or dizzy
- pains, tingling or numbness in your arms and legs (poor circulation)
- feeling your heart racing, fainting or feeling faint
- problems with your digestion, such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
- your weight being very high or very low for someone of your age and height
- not getting your period or other delayed signs of puberty
You can read more about the symptoms of:
Warning signs of an eating disorder in someone else
It can 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 they've eaten, when they've eaten, or their weight
- eating a lot of food very fast
- going to the bathroom a lot after eating
- exercising a lot
- avoiding eating with others
- cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly
- wearing loose or baggy clothes to hide their weight loss
Getting help for an eating disorder
If you think you may have an eating disorder, see a GP as soon as you can.
A GP will ask about your eating habits and how you're feeling, plus check your overall health and weight.
They may refer you to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists.
It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and ask for help. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.
You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.
Getting help for someone else
It can be difficult to know what to do if you're worried that someone has an eating disorder.
They may not realise they have an eating disorder. They may also deny it, or be secretive and defensive about their eating or weight.
Let them know you're worried about them and encourage them to see a GP. You could offer to go along with them.
The eating disorder charity Beat also has information on:
- what to do if you're worried about a friend or family member
- what to do if you're worried about a pupil
- what to do if you're worried about an employee
- supporting someone with an eating disorder
Information provided by www.nhs.uk