Eating disorders are a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. They are serious mental illnesses and include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Over 725,000 men and women in the UK are affected by eating disorders. People with eating disorders have a relationship with food that is physically and emotionally destructive to them.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of their age, sex or cultural background. Young women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, particularly those aged 12 to 20, but older women and men of all ages can also have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are complex and there is no one single reason why someone develops an eating disorder.
There are a large number of eating disorders, though the three most common are:
Bulimia - People suffering with bulimia often binge on food, but then try to control their weight through making themselves sick or using laxatives to avoid keeping any food within their body. People often feel very guilty after binging. They may also exercise excessively or go through periods of fasting. This behaviour is not necessarily associated with low bodyweight.
Anorexia nervosa - People with anorexia severely restrict their food intake, and are often intensely afraid of weight gain and have low bodyweight.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – BED is a serious mental illness where people experience a loss of control and overeat on a regular basis.
Eating disorders are complex and there is no single cause or list of symptoms that will apply to everyone who suffers with an eating disorder. Some people may suffer from a number of different disorders at once, or alternate between them, and sufferers may also be affected by other mental health issues such as depression, self-harming or even substance misuse.
If you feel that you may have an eating disorder, it is important to speak to someone and start to get support. It is usually very difficult for people with eating disorders to get better on their own, so it is important that you find professional help and support as soon as possible. If you need support, you should speak with your GP as soon as possible, though there are lots of other ways of accessing support and information from other sources (see the bottom of this page),
Spotting the signs of an eating disorder is extremely important when encouraging individuals to get the help and support they need as quickly as possible. Beat Eating Disorders have produced this handy list of signs to help you spot where someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder
Beat Eating Disorders is a national organisation offering advice, support and information for people suffering with eating disorders, or for those that care about them. Their helpline is open 365 days a year, 3pm-10pm daily, and you can reach them on 0808 801 0677.
SYEDA is an organisation operating in South Yorkshire that supports anyone affected by an eating disorder, as well as their friends and family. SYEDA help anybody who feels that their relationship with food or body image dominates their lives. They offer support groups, therapy, advice and also run discussion groups.
ABC (Anorexia & Bulimia Care) offer on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders.
Men Get Eating Disorders Too seeks to raise awareness of eating disorders in men so that men are able to recognise their symptoms and access support when they need it.