According to the eating disorder charity Beat, there are an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK with an eating disorder.
Eating disorders vary a lot from person to person. Someone with an eating disorder might limiting how much they eat, eat lots of food at once, get rid of food they've eaten through making themself sick, fasting, or doing lots of exercise, or some combination of the above.
Because eating disorders can look so different from person to person, and because there are a lot of stereotypes about them, they can "hide in plain sight".
Could I have an eating disorder?
Some of the common behaviours and feelings that could mean you or someone you know has an eating disorder include:
- Being very focused on food, e.g. thinking about food a lot, or setting rigid rules about what you're "allowed" to eat
- Being very preoccupied with your weight and shape
- Avoiding eating around other people
- Low confidence and self-esteem
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings and irritability
- Feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety, which might be related to food or not
If you’re worried about yourself or someone else, seek help as quickly as possible, as this gives the greatest chance of a full recovery.
Where to go for support
- Contact your GP - If you think that you have an eating disorder you should contact your local GP. They will ask you about your eating habits and lifestyle. If they think you might have an eating disorder they will refer you to a specialist.
- Talk to a friend or family member - It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and ask for help. Start by talking to a friend or family member. You could even bring them with you to your appointment to make you feel more comfortable.
- Talk to an advisor Beat, the UK's eating disorder charity, has advisors who can talk to you about the different types of eating disorders, and give information about recovery and the support available to you. They also have advice and resources on telling someone you have an eating disorder, getting a referral, what to expect from treatment, and more. Take a look at their website or contact them using the details below:
Helpline: 0808 801 0677
What should services do to help?
- Provide quicker access to support. Beat has warned that during the pandemic NHS waiting lists to see a specialist have grown alarmingly.
- Raise awareness of eating disorders and make information about local treatment and support easy to access.
- Offer more information about support groups to help people support a family member or struggling with an eating disorder.