Lots of young people worry about how they look and their body and weight. However, sometimes this can start to take over day-to-day life.
If someone has an eating disorder, they may focus excessively on their weight and shape which leads them to make unhealthy choices about food which damages their health.
Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially.
Common eating disorders include:
People with anorexia have an intense fear of being fat and tend to go to great lengths to avoid eating fattening foods and to lose weight. This might include exercising too much and making themselves sick. This is usually because they feel they are too fat, even when they look very thin to other people.
Binge eating disorder (BED)
People with BED may eat large amounts of food in a short period of time. This might not be at a normal meal time and is often while they are alone. They feel a lack of control during these binges.
Unlike someone with bulimia (see below), the person does not try to get rid of the food. They may feel their eating is out of control, eat an unusually large amount of food, eat more quickly in binges, eat until uncomfortably full or eat large amounts of food when they are not hungry.
People with bulimia binge (eat a lot) and then purge (get rid of it) by vomiting, fasting, using laxatives or over-exercising in order to stop gaining weight.
Why do people have eating disorders?
Eating disorders are often associated with the social pressure to be thin and look a certain way but the causes of eating disorders are usually more complex. An eating disorder may be linked to biological, genetic or environmental factors combined with a particular event that triggers the disorder. They may also be other factors.
Can eating disorders be treated?
Treatment for eating disorders is available and recovery can take a long time. Treatment usually involves monitoring a person’s physical health while helping them deal with the underlying psychological causes.
If an eating disorder isn’t treated then it can have a negative impact on someone’s health, their schoolwork, and can disrupt relationships with family and friends.
Where to get advice and support
If you’re worried about any of the above, you can visit these websites for help and support. You can also talk to an adult you trust, including your school nurse.
Beat is a charity that provides information about and support for people with eating disorders
A free and confidential support service for children and young people (telephone 0800 1111)
This information was provided by our school nurses and NHS choices.