We all eat differently. We all like different foods and to eat in different ways. But if you’re taking eating to extremes, trying to strictly control what or how much you eat, or if you are eating and then making yourself sick, it could be that you have a serious eating problem that needs help. You are not alone. Find out what you can do if you think you’re affected.
Eating disorder can affect anyone of any body shape or lifestyle, regardless of age sex or cultural background. Eating disorders are complex, there is no single reason why someone develops one, and there can be a range of factors such genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological. Often eating disorders develop because other parts of your life don’t feel right. Sometimes worry or stress or feeling out of control can be the trigger.
Forgetting to eat for a day, having an occasional blow out, or even going on an occasional diet isn’t a sign of an eating disorder. But if you are going to extremes to control how much you eat or what you are eating, or are making yourself sick after eating then you should seek help.
Some eating problems such as Anorexia and Bulimia are serious mental health conditions that need professional help to diagnose and treat. Some symptoms that are often paired with disordered eating include:
- Losing or ignoring appetite
- Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
- Obsessing about body image
- Eating only certain types of things or following a ‘fad’ too closely
- Fear of gaining weight
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Exercising excessively
- Being sick
- No longer enjoying eating socially or say, avoiding social situations when there is food involved
- Focusing on buying or cooking food for others
- Becoming secretive
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you have an eating problem but if they are affecting everyday life, talk to your GP.
Eating disorders are serious, but they are also treatable and full recovery is possible. Which is why it’s important to get help as soon as you can. The sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.
Either visit your GP or a school nurse. They can help look at healthy eating habits with you, make sure you are not in any immediate danger and start to look at why you have the eating habits you do. You may be referred to CAMHS, the Child and Adolescent mental health Service for an assessment to see if support is needed regarding your physical and emotional well-being.
GP – you can make an appointment to visit your doctor or a nurse at the surgery to talk about any worries or concerns you have. Call your GP surgery to speak to the receptionist or go there in person. The receptionist will probably ask you who the appointment is for and why; this is to make sure that you see the right person at the right time. You don’t have to tell them why – you can just say it’s for something personal if you like.
If you think you’ll might have difficulty discussing your mental health with your GP, you can find advice about how to prepare How to Talk to Your GP About Mental Health
Schools employ a variety of people to look after your wellbeing. Some of the titles of these staff may vary in your school but you will be able to find out about them from a teacher.
CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) – these are community teams that help children and young people with emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties. A doctor or nurse would normally refer someone to these services.
Off the Record – free individual and group services for 11-18 year olds. www.otrbristol.org.uk, 0808 808 9120, text 07896880011.
South Gloucestershire Talking Therapies – free support for people aged 16 and over experiencing emotional difficulties 0117 378 4270 https://iapt-sglos.awp.nhs.uk/
Network Counselling – for ages 11 and up. Call 01179507271 or visit www.network.org.uk (contribution required).
The Bridge Foundation – individual and family counselling, call 0117 9424510 or visit www.bridgefoundation.org.uk (charges apply).
Relate Avon – counselling services available for young people aged 10-18. Call 0117 9428444 or visit www.relate-avon.org.uk (charges apply).
Young people’s drug & alcohol service – support and advice. Call 01454 866000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mix – www.themix.org.uk 0808 808 4994 – free information and support for under 25s in the UK. Get advice about sex, relationships, drugs, mental health, money and jobs.
ChildLine – free helpline for children and young people to talk about any problem 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk
Samaritans – if something is troubling you call 116 123 or email email@example.com
Get self-help – free cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) resources, www.getselfhelp.co.uk.
Eating Disorder Association: www.b-eat.co.uk Helpline – 0845 634 1414 Youth helpline – 0845 6347650
Information for parents of children with an eating disorder www.maudsleyparents.org
Information on anorexia nervosa http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/medical-information/anorexia-nervosa
A list of recommended books to help young people deal with a range of issues, available in all libraries.
Banish Your Body Image Thief: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Building Positive Body Image for Young People Kate Collins-Donnelly
Can I Tell You About Eating Disorders? Lucy Watson
Tyranny: I Keep You Thin Lesley Fairfield