What do you know about Eating Disorders?

The term ‘Eating Disorder’ covers a wide range of problems with food and a person’s relationship with food, including Anorexia, Bulimia and binge eating. Further to this, Eating Disorders tend to also involve issues around self-esteem, distorted body image, and control. The three main recognised eating disorders are descibed below along with a list of support services which are free to access if you’re experiencing disordered eating and require support.

Anorexia Nervosa:

This is a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder caused by distorted body image. It is typically characterised by self-starvation, resulting in excessive weight loss. Anorexia is often accompanied by an inability to appreciate the severity of the situation and individuals often don’t see themselves as being unwell.

Symptoms:

  • Weight loss brought about by inadequate food intake, the person avoids high calorie or fatty foods.

  • Preventing weight gain may also involve self-induced vomiting, purging using laxatives, excessive exercise and/or diuretics.

  • Distorted self-perception particularly around body image.

  • Normal hormonal function can be disrupted, affecting menstruation, libido and sexual appetite.

Physical Health:

  • Abnormally low blood pressure, slowed heart rate. Risk of heart failure.

  • Lack of calcium and Vit D leads to poor bone density. Risk of osteoporosis.

  • Muscle loss and weakness.

  • Severe dehydration. Risk of kidney failure.

  • Fainting, fatigue.

  • Extreme sensitivity to cold.

  • Dry hair and skin. Risk of hair loss.


Bulimia:

Involves episodes of excessive eating (bingeing) followed by behaviour which aims to prevent weight gain (purging). This may include self-induced vomiting, purging with laxatives, excessive exercise, and fasting. People feel out of control during bingeing and may eat beyond the point they would normally feel full.

It is not uncommon for those with bulimia to have had anorexia previously or, bulimia may lead into anorexia and it can be common to flip between the two conditions. The thought processes characteristic of both are very similar; there is an underlying fear of weight gain, poor body image and self-esteem. This can also be life threatening.

Symptoms: 

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating in short periods of time.

  • Preoccupation with food and eating.

  • Compensates for over eating by purging in similar ways to anorexia: purging, self-starvation, vomiting and/or diuretics or appetite suppressants.

  • Self image distorted.

Physical Health:

  • Electrolyte imbalances, caused by dehydration and purging. Risk of irregular heartrate, heart failure.

  • Vomiting frequently causes inflammation and damage to the throat and oesophagus due to stomach acids.

  • Teeth can become stained, infected and decayed.

  • Frequent use of laxatives can disrupt the normal function of digestion process.

  • Gastric ruptures are uncommon but do happen. This is a tear in the stomach. Risk of internal bleeding and associated complications.


Binge Eating:

A relatively new diagnosis, which can cause serious emotional distress, physical health concerns and suicidal ideation. Binge eating shares many of the symptoms of bulimia without the purging behaviours.

Symptoms:

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating.

  • Significantly larger amounts of food in a short time.

  • Feels out of control with eating. Poor relationship with food.

Binge eating episodes also associated with some of the following:

  • Eating much faster than normal

  • Eating when not hungry

  • Eating alone/hiding binges because of associated feelings of shame.

  • Feelings of disgust, guilt or depression after eating.

  • Distress about binges, before, during and after.

  • No purging behaviours as in bulimia, which can result in excessive weight gain.

Physical Health:

  • Increased weight, which may lead to obesity and associated problems

  • High blood pressure and cholesterol levels

  • Heart disease

  • Type II diabetes

  • Fatigue

  • Joint pain

  • Sleep apnea

  • Risk of gastric rupture during binges.


Support Services

ABC (Anorexia & Bulimia Care):Ongoing care, emotional support and practical guidance. Includes nutritional guidance/support and befriending.

Tel: 0300 011 1213 / Email: support@anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk


Beat:Support for anyone with eating disorders. Provides helplines for adults and young people, online support as well as peer support groups UK wide.

Over 18s: Tel: 0345 634 1414 / Email:help@b-eat.co.uk

Under 25: Tel: 0345 634 7650 / Email: fyp@b-eat.co.uk


MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders too):National charity raising awareness of eating disorders in men.  Also provides peer support services for men affected by eating disorders.

Email: sam@mengetedstoo.co.uk

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