Eating Difficulties

An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that involves a person developing thoughts, feelings and eating behaviours which can take over their life and make them very unwell.

Eating disorders can involve eating too much or too little and becoming really unhappy, worried and preoccupied with things such as weight and shape.

It’s important to remember that lots of people worry about what they look like and from time to time might be unhappy with their weight or shape, but for someone with an eating disorder these thoughts and feelings can have a serious impact on their life, their physical health, education and general daily life in situations such as when hanging out with friends, spending time with family, going out and taking part in activities.

1

What causes an eating disorder?

There is no one cause of an eating disorder. Young people who develop eating difficulties and disorders often tell us that eating or not eating can be a way of coping with feelings of sadness, worry and stress, from events such as exams, bullying, friendship or family relationship difficulties. Bereavement or loss may also play a part in how someone copes or feels about themselves.

There are also some personal factors such as having low self-esteem, experiencing anxiety or depression, setting high standards and being perfectionistic and identifying as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual) are sometimes associated with people who develop eating disorders. However, experiencing any one of these things does not necessarily mean that someone will develop an eating disorder or difficulty.

There are many different types of eating disorders and all of them are serious. All eating disorders are treatable and a full recovery is possible so if you know a young person who is having difficulties, encourage them to seek help and advice as soon as possible.

2

Are there some signs that there might be a problem and it’s time to get help?

Not everyone who has an eating disorder will experience all the signs and symptoms. Also, experiencing some of these signs and symptoms does necessarily mean that you have an eating disorder, but it is important to get help and advice.

• Constant thinking or worrying about food, calories, weight gain or your shape
• Reducing food in order to lose weight and setting yourself strict rules about what you can or cannot eat
• 
Trying to do other things to lose weight, such as lots of exercise, vomiting, taking laxatives or slimming pills
• 
Feeling tired and more emotional
• 
For girls, periods might stop

Top Tips
1

It is common for people with eating difficulties to not see that there is a real problem. They might not see or understand why others are concerned or might disagree that there is a problem.

2

Encourage the young person to take things one day at at time and each meal at a time. If you have a difficult meal or snack, start the next one afresh.

3

Find things that will help motivate them to maintain a healthy eating pattern when things are hard. Things like going out with friends, doing sports and activities and achieving goals they have set themselves.

4

There are a number of downloadable workbooks and self-help materials, including:

• What’s eating you? A Workbook for Teens with Anorexia, Bulimia, and Other Eating Disorders by Tammy Nelson
• Getting Over Overeating for Teens: A Workbook to Transform Your Relationship with Food Using CBT, Mindfulness, and Intuitive Eating by Andrea Watcher
• 
Body Image Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help Girls Develop a Healthy Body Image in an Image-Obsessed World by Julia Taylor
• 
Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals by Lisa Scab

Watch: Previous Next

  • What is an eating disorder?
  • Beat eating disorders: Sufferers - credit Beat
  • Is there a link between social media and eating difficulties?
  • What is an eating disorder?
  • Beat eating disorders: Sufferers - credit Beat
  • Is there a link between social media and eating difficulties?