An eating disorder is when you develop an unhealthy relationship with food, which can dominate your life and affect your physical and mental health. This could relate to eating too much or too little, becoming obsessed with your weight or body shape, or over-exercising. Eating disorders can be serious and life-threatening conditions – and it can be hard to recover on your own. Treatment and professional support are vital. For some people, their behaviour around food can be used to cope with painful emotions or to take control of their lives.
How do you know if you have an eating disorder?
Eating disorders can affect men and women of any age. The symptoms can vary depending on the type of eating disorder you have and for each individual.
Common signs of eating disorders include:
being preoccupied with your weight or body shape
eating very little food or skipping meals
making yourself sick
exercising too much
You may avoid socialising if food is involved or have particular food rituals – such as cutting food into very small pieces or eating very slowly.
Physical warning signs include:
noticeable changes in weight
digestive problems such as stomach cramps
dry skin, hair and brittle nails
for women and girls – periods become irregular or stop
What is anorexia nervosa?
You become anxious about trying to keep your weight as low as possible by not eating enough or by doing too much exercise. While you may be too thin, in the mirror you see yourself as a healthy weight or even fat.
What is bulimia?
You binge eat food and then make yourself sick, use laxatives or do exercise to stop yourself gaining weight. You become obsessive about your self-image.
What is binge eating disorder?
You lose control of your eating and eat large quantities of food. This can leave you feeling uncomfortably full and very distressed and ashamed afterwards. You may plan your binges in advance, or they may be spontaneous.
Help with Eating Disorders:
The British Assoc. for Counselling & Psychotherapy have a useful summary.
Beat Eating Disorders have a helpline, chatrooms, and can support not only the sufferer, but also those caring for them.
Anorexia & bulimia care also have a helpline and offer support and advice.
Overeaters anonymous provides insight into our problems of eating compulsively, strength to deal with it, and a very real hope that there is a solution.