Eating Disorders

We all have to do it - but while for some people, eating is a pleasure, for others the very thought of eating is a source of horror. Newspapers often show shocking pictures of skeletally thin teenage girls 'starving themselves to death', but eating disorders can strike at any age.

Authored by , Reviewed by Dr Hayley Willacy | Last edited | Meets Patient’s editorial guidelines

How do you treat eating disorders?

Dr Sarah Jarvis MBE

Eating disorders all have one thing in common - they all involve problems related to your relationship with food. However, eating disorders are as much or more to do with control (or loss of control) over your body than they are to do with not liking food. Also see Types of Eating Disorder.


people in the UK affected by an eating disorder

Source: Why is anorexia on the rise?

Food is the tool you use to help you cope with emotional distress, or to feel more in control of your life. Sadly, the food-related behaviour that results can fuel your psychological problems. For instance, self-loathing and low self-esteem are common in bulimia and binge eating disorder. You may feel an overwhelming urge to binge, because it gives you temporary relief from these feelings. However, afterwards you may feel even more disgusted with yourself because of your 'weakness' for giving in to the urge to binge.

So eating disorders are classified together because they have two things in common: the first is an unhealthy relationship with food (too little, too much, only the 'right' kind) and the second is the psychological distress which goes with it. Whatever kind of eating disorder you have, it's likely to have a major impact on your life.

Editor's note

Dr Sarah Jarvis, January 2021

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has updated its guidance on eating disorders. They have made new recommendations on:

Other recommendations from their guidance can be found in our patient information leaflets on anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

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Further reading and references

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Eating Disorder Recovery Plan

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hi there my 13 year old daughter is under chams for a lot of things she eating ever little for a week and a half she dropped weight again and is now weight in just under 6 stone she at the doctors today does any one think she ve admitted to hospital back in March she was admitted due to be under …