skip to Main Content

In a crisis?

For urgent medical attention, for example, if you’re worried about acting on thoughts of suicide, or you’ve seriously harmed yourself, you can call 999 or go straight to A&E.

What is an eating disorder?

Many people have different eating habits. Eating problems are defined as any difficult relationship with food. An eating disorder, however, is a medical diagnosis based on your eating patterns and medical tests on your weight, blood and body mass index (BMI).

Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or weight. They affect 1.6 million people within the UK, and they’re most likely to develop during teenage years. Although girls are more likely to be affected by eating disorders, roughly a quarter of boys around school age also experience eating disorders.

Types of eating disorders:

These include

  • anorexia nervosa;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • binge eating disorder;
  • muscle dysmorphia (affects mostly males);
  • other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED, previously known as ‘eating disorder not otherwise specified’ – EDNOS).

Some feelings associated with having an eating disorder can include:

  • depression/low mood;
  • panic around meal times;
  • being frightened to put on weight;
  • shame/embarrassment, ‘feeling fat’ or that your weight loss isn’t good enough;
  • feeling that by eating you lose the control you feel you need;
  • unhappiness with your body;
  • feeling numb (feelings are blocked out);
  • loneliness.

There are also many consequences on your physical health too.

Anorexia nervosa

If you get this diagnosis, it means you’re not eating enough food to get the energy you need to stay healthy. Sometimes people assume anorexia is just about slimming and dieting, but it’s much more than this. At its core, it’s often connected to very low self-esteem, negative self-image and feelings of intense distress. Behaviours may include:

  • reducing food intake;
  • counting calories and spending excessive time thinking about them;
  • hiding food;
  • avoiding foods with high calories;
  • use medications/drugs that say they reduce weight;
  • excessive exercising;
  • making rules about food, develop structured eating times;
  • excessively checking your weight.

Bulimia nervosa

If you experience bulimia, you may find that you eat large amounts of food in one go because you feel upset or worried (binging). You might find you eat these foods ‘in secret’ and feel like you ‘lose control’ while eating. You may then feel guilty or ashamed after binging and want to get rid of the food you have eaten (purging). Purging behaviours may include:

  • making yourself sick;
  • using laxatives;
  • exercise excessively;
  • starving in between binges.

Binge eating disorder (BED)

If you have this diagnosis, you may feel as though you can’t stop yourself from eating, even if you want to. BED is sometimes described as compulsive eating. You may often rely on food to make you feel better or help to hide difficult feelings. Behaviours may include:

  • picking at food all day;
  • eating large amounts of food all at once (binging);
  • eating without thinking about it;
  • eating until you feel uncomfortably full or sick;
  • eating for comfort.

Muscle dysmorphia

Also known as ‘bigorexia’, ‘megarexia’ or ‘reverse anorexia’, this condition is characterised by an excessive preoccupation that your body is too small, too skinny, not muscular or toned enough. It affects mostly males, especially those involved in a sport where body size or weight are competitive factors. It can be very difficult to recognise.

Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED)

This is a diagnosis that is becoming more common. OSFED means you have an eating disorder but you don’t meet all of the criteria for one of the other specific eating disorders previously mentioned. You may, however, experience any of behaviours associated with the other eating disorders.

How can I help myself?

It’s important important to try to reach out and get support to help you. Treatment can not only just help you to develop balanced and healthy eating patterns, but also to deal with the underlying issues which may be causing your eating problem.

There is a wide range of support available. Usually, the first step to get treatment and support is to talk to your GP, they will be able to refer you to more specialised services. There are online self-help programmes which can be used, these include short support sessions (face-to-face, or over the phone) alongside the programmes. Numerous talking treatments are also available; the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends having cognitive behavioural therapy and/or family therapy.

You may need to go into a hospital or attend a day clinic if your doctor or care team feels you’re very unwell or underweight, where other treatments are not working, or if you home environment is challenging and makes it hard for you to stay well. There’ll be a range of useful support provided whether you are an inpatient or outpatient.

Useful Contacts:

Anorexia & Bulimia Care

Anorexia & Bulimia Care supports people who are affected by eating disorders.  This organisation provides a wealth of information for people suffering with eating disorders. They also provide information for their family, friends, parents and carers.

An online community for parents and carers is available, befriending, a helpline, and regional support.

Their helpline provides further information 03000 11 12 13

Option 1 – Support line

Option 2 – Family and friends

If you are suffering from an eating disorder and would like support via email their email address is 

For information regarding the befriending service available please email

If you are a parent, family member or friend of someone suffering from an eating disorder support and advice is also available by email


Beat is an eating disorder charity which aims to improve treatments and services.  It aims to change how eating disorders are thought and talked about, and help people believe eating disorders can be overcome.

Information and support can be accessed via phone, email, text, online message boards and online support groups.  Beat also runs specific projects and provides expert training to health and social care professionals and schools.

Please call their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or their youth line on 0808 801 0711. Lines are open 365 days a year from 3pm – 10pm.

Boys Get Anorexia Too

Boys Get Anorexia Too aims to provide support, comfort, information and advice for anyone who is concerned about a man’s eating and/or exercise patterns.  Important information is available about the nature of eating disorders and the signs to be aware of.  There is also first-hand experience from men who have had eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Expert

Eating Disorder Expert provides a wealth of information regarding the causes, diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders.  The website also provides a range of useful and practical advice.


Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders is an international organization of caregivers of eating disorder patients.  FEAST helps families affected by eating disorders by providing a range of information and mutual support.

The organization is run by volunteers.  It promotes evidence-based treatment and advocates for research and education to help people suffering with eating disorders.

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

This charity supports men who have been affected by eating disorders.  Its run by men with eating disorders, and also aims to support their families and carers.  MGEDT aims to increase awareness of eating disorders in men and to increase knowledge and understanding.

National Centre for Eating Disorders

The National Centre for Eating Disorders believes in effective support for people affected by eating disorders.  This is achieved via personal, telephone and Skype counselling, professional training courses.  There is also support and advice for carers and friends available, and a network of counsellors and psychotherapists.


SEED is a voluntary organisation of people with first-hand experience of eating disorders.  They aim to support others who are sharing the same experiences.

Support services available include drop-in support, buddy schemes, workshops and online resources.

The Recovery Course

The Recovery Course is a Twelve Step programme albeit one that focuses on all kinds of addiction from alcohol and drug dependency through to gambling, sex addiction, pornography, self – harming and eating disorders.  It is designed to bring freedom to people who struggle with addiction or any compulsive behaviour.
When: Every Thursday from 7-9.30pm (28th September 2017 to 11th January 2018).
Where: St Swithun’s Church, Gervis Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3ED
Tel: 01202 241077. No referral needed, you can simply turn up.

Please support our work

We couldn't do what we do without support from people like you. With your help, we
can be there for everyone who needs us.

Make a donation today

Back To Top
×Close search