When someone says eating disorder, you probably think of catwalk models or super skinny celebs, but it's not just women who struggle with this type of condition.
Eating disorders can actually affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. Plus having an eating disorder doesn't necessarily mean you're skinny.
Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can affect you emotionally, physically and socially, with the most common being anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Unfortunately the warning signs are often missed - weight loss, negative relationships with food and over-exercising can just be seen as a diet craze, a health kick or a phase.
If you think you may have an eating disorder, it's really important to get some support as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment reduces the risks to your physical health and improves recovery, so it can make a big difference.
Eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental illness. One in five of the most seriously affected will die from the physical consequences or suicide. While recovery can seem like a long road ahead, eating disorders can be overcome.
How it can feel
You may find yourself:
- Making yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full;
- Having urges to restrict or binge, vomit or use laxatives;
- Worrying about losing control over what you eat;
- Losing a lot of weight, sometimes within a short space of time;
- Believing that you're fat when others say you're too thin;
- Having constant thoughts about food that dominate your life;
- Feeling like you have to exercise more and more, which gets in the way of your usual daily routine;
- Getting less pleasure from things you previously enjoyed;
- Spending less time with friends and family, feeling more isolated and secretive about your behaviours;
- Finding it hard to concentrate and feeling more irritable;
- Experiencing physical changes such as stomach pains, bloating, dizziness, feeling cold and tired.
Eating disorders are complex. Your experience might be different to someone else's and you may not have all of the symptoms listed. You might also be affected by other mental health issues such as anxiety or urges to self-harm.
When to seek help
Don’t try and tackle it alone. Finding out where to go for help is the first step to getting better. Sometimes people don’t talk about their eating difficulties because they think they're not serious enough, or they feel guilty or embarrassed. Getting help as early as possible can make a big difference, so if you're experiencing any of the things listed above, please get in touch.
What support is available
Our city centre drop-in service Pause can provide information and advice about eating disorders. You can also have an informal, confidential chat with one of the team about how you're feeling.
We have a dedicated Community Eating Disorder team, which provides a range of specialist evidence-based treatment and support options.
If your symptoms become severe, we can offer intensive support within your home environment or we may consider if an inpatient or day-patient stay would be more appropriate. We'll support you to access treatment in a safe way and work towards recovery.
We would always recommend making an appointment with your GP if you have concerns about your dietary intake, low weight, or physical symptoms. Your GP will be able to assess how you're doing both mentally and physically and pick up any potential risks to your physical health straight away.
More information on eating disorders is available on the BEAT website.