What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.
Types of eating disorders
Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:
- anorexia nervosa – when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible, for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively
- bulimia – when someone tries to control their weight by binge eating and then deliberately being sick or using laxatives (medication to help empty their bowels)
- binge eating – when someone feels compelled to overeat
Some people, particularly young people, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This is means you have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
Why do people get eating disorders?
Although there isn't a simple explanation for this, eating disorders seem to stem from a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors. It may be that other areas of the individuals life are out of control, and that the eating disorder is a coping mechanism.
What help is available?
Help is patchy. GPs aren't formally trained to understand eating disorders, and NHS trusts tend to provide services only for serious cases of anorexia nervosa or bulimia - not to forget high demand and long waiting lists.
However, help for eating disorders is available in many forms. Whether this be self help, or one of the therapeutic approaches listed alongside, there are ways to get help.
For more information please click here for a link to the NHS website