About eating disorders
In this section you can find useful information about eating disorders.
We have a range of information sheets, leaflets and booklets for you to download, which have been designed for people affected by eating disorders, their family members, partners and friends.
You can also read the inspirational recovery stories and carers' stories.
Food and eating play a very important part in our lives. We all vary in the foods we like, how much we need to eat, and when we like to eat. Food is essential for our health and development. It’s not unusual to experiment with different eating habits, for example deciding to become a vegetarian. However, some eating patterns can be damaging.
Problems with food can begin when it is used to cope with those times when someone is bored, anxious, angry, lonely, ashamed or sad. Food becomes a problem when it is used to help people to cope with painful situations or feelings, or to relieve stress perhaps without them even realising it.
Most often, when people talk about eating disorders, they think of Anorexia and Bulimia. There is now growing awareness that some people suffer a mix of eating disorder behaviours or may be affected by some symptoms of Anorexia or Bulimia but not others. Everyone experiences their eating disorder in their own way. Whatever form it takes, an eating disorder can be beaten. Understanding an eating disorder and having the information about where you can go to find out more is a good first step towards beating an eating disorder.
What is Anorexia?
Anorexia stems from low self esteem and an inability to cope safely with worries and problems. It involves the sufferer restricting the amount of food they take in by skipping meals and cutting down the types and amounts of food they eat; some people over-exercise as well. A sufferer may believe that if they lose weight their life would be happier, people will like them more, they will be more successful or even perhaps that they may be noticed less.
What is Bulimia?
Bulimia is also linked with low self esteem, emotional problems and stress. A sufferer may constantly think about calories, dieting and ways of getting rid of the food they have eaten. Bulimia is actually more common than Anorexia, but is more hidden because people with Bulimia usually remain an average or just over average body weight. Bulimia can go unnoticed for a long time, although sufferers may feel ill and very unhappy.
What is Binge-Eating Disorder (BED)?
When someone binge eats, they may eat large amounts of food in a short period of time, they may focus on eating one particular food, or select food randomly. The pattern of eating in a binge is very different from sitting down and having a meal. Sufferers may feel a lack of control during these binges, but unlike someone with Bulimia Nervosa, they do not try to get rid of the food. They may eat much more quickly than usual, eat until they are uncomfortably full, eat large amounts of food when they are not hungry or eat alone. Sufferers do this for very similar reasons to those with Bulimia.
What is Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)?
Eating disorder not otherwise specified is a diagnosis given to a sufferer that experiences some of the symptoms associated with Anorexia or Bulimia, or a mixture of symptoms from both. This does not make their disorder any less serious. The underlying low self esteem and emotional distress are just as upsetting for these sufferers. Binge Eating Disorder (see below) is also included in this category.
Beat supports anyone affected by an eating disorder, whatever their experience.
For more detailed information about eating disorders and how to get help whether you are a sufferer or a carer, please download our beating eating disorders leaflet, or browse our information sheets and leaflets.