Everyone eats differently but if you take eating to extremes you could have an eating problem. But you’re not alone. Find out how eating becomes a problem and what you can do if you’re affected.
What is an eating problem?
Lots of people have different eating habits and forgetting to eat for a day or having a blow-out aren’t signs of an eating problem, nor is occasionally going on a diet.
Trying to control what or how much you eat very strictly or having urges to eat and then making yourself sick (bulimia) are signs that you could have an eating problem.
Eating problems are common and can affect anyone of any body shape or lifestyle. They can be triggered by a number of things but you can often develop an eating problem when other parts of your life don’t feel right.
Worry or stress can trigger eating problems as can the feeling of being out of control in other areas of your life. Being able to control how much or what you eat can give you back that feeling of order.
Singers Demi Lovato and Zayn Malik have both spoken openly about having eating disorders and what they did to get better.
Symptoms of eating problems
Some eating problems such as Anorexia and Bulimia are serious mental health conditions that need professional help to diagnose and treat. Some eating problems are signs of normal eating behaviour but they happen more often or to an extreme degree:
- Losing appetite
- Eating when not hungry
- Obsessing about body image (e.g. being too fat, not being muscly enough)
- Eating only certain types of things or following a a 'fad' diet too closely
- Fear of gaining weight
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Being sick
- No longer enjoying eating socially or leaving the table quickly (to be sick or hide food)
- Focusing on buying or cooking food for others
- Feeling secretive
Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by an eating problem but if they are affecting everyday life, talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.
What to do about eating problems
Take the first step – if you think you are affected by an eating disorder talk to someone you trust. It’s often hard to accept that you might have an eating problem but young people who have suffered from one always say that beginning to talk is the start of their road to recovery.
Sometimes learning to eat normally again can be hard work so speak to your GP who can help with diet. They may also suggest talking therapies for you and your family to help with the issues that have triggered the eating problem.
Understanding that you are not alone is really important and there are a lot of groups around the UK where you can go to talk with young people who have shared the same experience as you. This can really help you begin your recovery.
This is Hope Virgo's story of recovery:
Where to get help
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger
- Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis
- If you need urgent help text YM to 85258
- All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
- Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
- If you have an eating disorder, or someone in your family does, b-eat is the place you can go to for information and support.
- Helpline number for under 25's: 0808 801 0711 (Daily 3pm-10pm)
- Email: [email protected]
- To know what local help and support you can get, put your postcode into HelpFinder
Anorexia and Bulimia Care
- If you're being affected by an eating disorder, you can ring the helpline.
- Helpline 03000 11 12 13 (option 1: support line, option 2: family and friends)
Men Get Eating Disorders Too
- Information and advice for men on eating disorders.
- A place for you to get advice and information about counselling in the UK, if you're aged 12-25.
- If you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need.
- Freephone: 0808 808 4994 (13:00-23:00 daily)