Anyone can be affected by an eating disorder.

Key facts:

  • An estimated 1.25 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder.
  • Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point in their lives.
  • Higher weight children are 63% more likely to experience bullying
  • 40% of parents have encouraged their children to diet.

Disordered eating can take many different forms

What is it?

It’s an eating disorder where a person keeps their body weight as low as possible. People with anorexia usually do this by restricting the amount of food they eat. They may also make themselves vomit and / or exercising excessively.

Anorexia Nervosa has two main sub-types:

  • Restricting type – Where a person strictly restricts their food intake. This could involve rigid rules and obsessions around food.
  • Binge-eating or Purging type – As above, the individual may strictly restrict their food intake, but may also regularly engage in binge-eating or purging behaviours (e.g. self-induced vomiting, over-exercise, misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas).

Main considerations

  • A restriction of energy / food intake in relation to an individual’s requirements leading to a significantly low bodyweight for their age, gender, physical health and developmental stage. Significantly low bodyweight is defined as ‘less than minimally normal’ for adults and ‘less than minimally expected’ for children and young people
  • An intense fear of gaining bodyweight or getting fat, or persistent behaviours that prevent an individual from gaining bodyweight, despite them being a significantly low bodyweight
  • Distortions in the way an individual’s bodyweight or shape is experienced, an unjustified influence of an individual’s bodyweight or shape on their self-worth or a consistent lack of recognition of the severity of an individual’s significantly low bodyweight

Some signs to look out for

  • A preoccupation with food, bodyweight, shape and appearance
  • Rapid weight loss
  • A low BMI for their age
  • Restrictions in food intake and/or changes in eating habits
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Disturbances in endocrine functioning (e.g. menstrual cycle in females or testosterone in males)
  • Mood changes
  • Rigid thought patterns (also known as ‘black and white’ thinking)
  • Excessive exercise
  • Avoidance of eating meals or finding excuses not to eat
  • Loss of libido (sex drive)
  • A drop in bodily temperature

What is it?

A binge is an episode of excessive eating or drinking. People who binge eat very large quantities of food over a short period of time, even when they’re not hungry. Binges are often planned in advance and the person may buy “special” binge foods.

Sometimes, a person will describe being in a “dazed state” during a binge particularly binges at night and not being able to remember what they ate. People who regularly eat this way are likely to have a binge eating disorder.

Main considerations

The main problem linked to compulsive overeating is obesity which can cause:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Certain cancers such as bowel, breast and cervical

Some signs to look out for

  • Eating much faster than normal during a binge
  • Eating until you feel uncomfortably full
  • Eating a large amount of food when you’re not hungry
  • Eating alone or secretly because you’re embarrassed about the amount of food you’re consuming
  • Having feelings of guilt, shame or disgust after binge eating

What is it?

Concerned with outward appearance, and imagines or self observes severe flaws, or distortions, on their body. These concerns cause emotional distress and have a significant impact on carrying on with day-to-day life in the same way people suffer from obsessive compulisve disorders (OCD).

Main considerations

Increase risk of developing or triggering BDD, include:

  • Genetics / having blood relatives with body dysmorphic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Traumatic life experiences, such as teasing, abuse or neglect
  • Perfectionism
  • Societal pressure or high/unrealistic expectations of beauty
  • Anxiety or depression

 

Some signs to look out for

  • Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
  • Feeling ugly or deformed
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
  • Engaging in behaviours aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
  • Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
  • Constantly comparing your appearance with others
  • Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Avoiding socialising

What is it?

A serious mental health illness that may affect anyone (any gender, age or background). People with bulimia nervosa tend to restrict their food intake. This results in periods of excessive eating and loss of control (binge eating), after which they compensate, which may be done by making themselves vomit or using laxatives (purging).

They purge themselves because they fear that the binging will cause them to gain weight, and usually feel guilty and ashamed of their behaviour.

This is why these behaviours associated with bulimia are usually done in secret.

Diabulimia is a form of Bulimia Nervosa and refers to someone who reduces their insulin intake in order to lose weight.

Main considerations

  • Recurrent episodes of binging
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour, such as vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics (or other medications), fasting or excessive exercising.
  • Self- evaluation is influenced by body shape and weight
  • Vomiting and laxatives
    • Dental problems caused by constant vomiting, since the stomach acid passing the teeth erodes the enamel
    • Water and salt imbalance can affect your heart, kidney and brain
    • Potassium levels can become very low and affect the electrical activity of the heart and brain leading to heart attacks and fits
    • Swollen facial glands
    • Severe dehydration can lead to kidney failure and stones
    • Laxatives can damage the bowel and stop it from working normally, this can lead to constipation and lots of wind. These effects can be irreversible
    • Straining due to use of laxatives can result in piles and prolapse (where your bowel leaves the body)
  • Over Exercise
    • Dangerously low sugar levels can lead to coma and death
    • Bones are thin so can easily break
    • Muscles and joints can be damaged from increased strain
    • Destroys muscle and shape as your body eats its own flesh
  • Diet Pills and Diuretics
    • Diuretics (water tablets) cause dehydration and salt imbalance and damage the circulation and kidneys in a similar way to laxatives and vomiting.
    • Slimming drugs and appetite suppressants used to control appetite and prevent binges may work in the short term but can cause irritability, anxiety attacks, depression, paranoia, constipation, blurred vision and in some cases, psychosis or death.
    • Diet pills taken to excess can cause the body to become overactive and excitable
    • Difficulties in sleeping
    • Heart palpitations and permanent cardiovascular damage
    • You become on edge and jumpy
    • The mind becomes overactive and you become suspicious and agitated
    • Eventually, seizures or fits may develop. In those with epilepsy, appetite suppressants will substantially increase the risk of seizure

Some signs to look out for

  • Fear of putting on weight
  • Being critical about body shape and weight
  • Mood changes
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Behaving secretly
  • Bloating or tummy pain
  • A sore throat from being sick
  • Eating a lot of food very fast
  • Going to the bathroom after eating,
  • Erosion on teeth, painful and bleeding gums

What is it?

Compulsive exercise may be defined as exercise that significantly interferes with important activities, occurs at inappropriate times or in inappropriate settings, or when the individual continues to exercise despite injury or other medical complications.

Main considerations

  • Often individual’s suffering from Bulimia Nervosa (BN) may use compulsive exercise as a means to control their bodyweight or to compensate for binge-eating episodes.
  • An individual with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) will often use compulsive exercise to achieve further weight loss.
  • Athletes (especially female) are at higher risk of developing an eating disorder

Some signs to look out for

  • Heightened anxiety if unable to engage in exercise
  • Perfectionism and rigidity with regards to exercise behaviours
  • Exercise taking a priority over other activities and commitments (e.g. spending time with family and friends, work or school)
  • Refusing to miss an exercise session, despite being ill or injured
  • Exercising in isolation, rather than with others
  • Exercising to the point of physical pain and often beyond
  • Exercising in excess, despite not having a tangible goal or competition

What is it?

The opposite of Anorexia Nervosa – constantly worries about being too small and frail looking and can be found in body builders and frequent gym-goers.

Although it’s far more likely to affect men, women have been known to also suffer.

Some signs to look out for

  • Overexerting themselves at the gym
  • Working out compulsively
  • Use of steroids
  • Excessively looking at their body in the mirror
  • Abuse of supplements and constantly drinking protein shakes
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Depression and mania
  • Panicking if a gym session is missed
  • Forcing themselves to train even if they’re injured
  • Prioritising working out over family and social life

What is it?

Obesity is a condition where an individual is considered over weight, or clinically over weight, with a high amount of body fat.

The most commonly used tool in diagnosis is the Body Mass Index (BMI) which is calculated based on weight and height.

A BMI of 30 to 39.9 would indicate that an individual is obese, with anything higher falling into the category of severely obese.

However it is important to note that this method has its downsides such as failing to account for muscle and bone density, which is now also accepted for any eating disorder diagnosis.

Obesity can develop based of a variety of issues, quite commonly involving the consumption of more energy from food than can be expended, thereby resulting in the excess energy being stored as fat.  Causes of obesity however are not contained to this, with many conditions such as hypothyroidism and genetics contributing to cases as well.

Main considerations

  • High blood pressure
  • Liver/kidney disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Reduced fertility

Some signs to look out for

  • Shortness of breath
  • Aching knees
  • Hypertension/high blood pressure
  • Backache
  • Skin Problems
  • Heartburn
  • Varicose Veins

What is it?

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) may present with many of the symptoms of other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder but will not meet the full criteria for diagnosis of these disorders.

Main considerations

Examples of presentations that can fall under the OSFED diagnosis can include:

  • Atypical Anorexia Nervosa
    All the criteria for anorexia nervosa are met, except that despite significant weight loss, the individual’s weight is within or above the normal range.
  • Bulimia Nervosa
    All the criteria for bulimia nervosa are met, except that the binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours occur, on average, less than once a week and/or for less than 3 months.
  • Binge Eating Disorder
    All of the criteria for binge eating disorder are met, except the binge eating occurs, on average, less than once a week and/or for less than 3 months.
  • Diabulimia
    Someone with diabetes and an eating disorder
  • Orthorxeia Nervosa
    A fixation on righteous eating; the obsession with healthy eating and purity can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.
  • Pica
    Most often in children and pregnant women and is usually temporary; the compulsive eating of items that hold no nutritional value such as ice or dangerous items such as dried paint or metal.
  • Night Eating Syndrome
    Manifested by eating after awakening from sleep or by excessive food consumption after the evening meal.

What is it?

Weight Management is a public health approach used to help people lose weight in a controlled way to obtain a healthier lifestyle and reduce risks associated with obesity and diabetes supplemented with education in nutrition and preparing meals to be effective and safe.

Main considerations

In some cases, without consciously realising, and if left unchecked by the programme itself some people can find themselves excessively engaging in these management behaviours. This can lead to the development of Eating Disorders therefore self-awareness amongst both the programmes and beneficiaries is important.

Severely slashing calories will lead to weight loss, but the lost weight includes precious muscle and lowers metabolism with drastic calorie restriction also causing a shift toward a higher percentage of body fat, which increases the risk for metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes the same risks associated with anorexia and bulimia.

Some signs to look out for

  • Distorted body image
  • Obsessive weighing
  • Obsession with food / diet
  • Excessive calorie counting
  • Compulsive exercising

Eating disorders can often be non-specific when they include symptoms from a number or different illnesses.

In general, an individual showing some but not all of the signs below could be a sign of disordered eating:

You can make a referral now

Referrals can either be made by yourself, by a parent/ carer, or professional support worker.
After making a referral, we aim to make contact within 10 workings days.

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Private practice bookings are £45.

All bookings are made in the strictest confidence and available to anyone (over the age of 16) who is currently impacted by any eating disorder, or symptoms of an eating disorder, including an individual sufferer, family member or carer.

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