Eating Disorders

Many people change their eating habits at some point in their lives. This might be because they want to lose weight, or eat more healthily. But it’s sometimes possible to go too far. And when this happens, your eating patterns can do more harm than good.

Eating disorders can affect people of any age, sex or background. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

If you suffer from anorexia, you probably think of yourself as being overweight – even if you are actually very thin. You probably limit the amount of food you eat, and do lots of exercise to burn off the calories that you do consume. And it’s likely that your worries about weight, food and calories have taken over your life.

People with bulimia tend to eat large quantities of food, and then immediately try to get rid of the calories they have consumed. They might do this by starving themselves, doing lots of exercise, making themselves sick or taking laxatives. To doctors, this is known as ‘purging’. Binge eating is similar to bulimia, but without the purging.

Eating disorders can sometimes arise when life is difficult to cope with or if a person is struggling to control feelings such as anger, sadness or guilt. Some people with eating disorders have very low self-esteem, and think that weight loss will help you overcome this. Many people with eating disorders view them as a way of gaining control over their lives.


  • If you suffer from an eating disorder, it can cause serious health problems – both now, and later in life. It can cause your periods to stop, and affect your chances of having a baby. It can cause diabetes, and bone problems. And, if you make yourself sick regularly, it can cause your teeth to decay
  • In extreme cases, people can die from eating disorders
  • If you have an eating disorder, you are likely to feel very ill. You might miss a lot of school, or struggle to concentrate when you are there. This might make you fall behind with your school work, and affect your chances of going to university or getting a job
  • An eating disorder can affect your relationships with your family and friends
  • You may search the internet for websites to help you, and offer advice. Instead, you might come across websites that encourage your eating disorder. These are not helpful, and could cause even more harm
  • If you suffer from bulimia, you won’t necessarily lose weight. This can make your disorder difficult to spot, and may mean that you don’t get the help you need

Keeping yourself safe

  • If you think you have an eating disorder, speak to your GP or school nurse, or someone else that you trust. And do this as soon as possible
  • It is important to get the right help and have the right support as soon as possible to make sure that health problems don't last into adulthood.

Where to get help

Speak to your GP, school nurse, or any other health professional that knows you for advice.

For further information