Eating disorders

Eating disorders can come about when there’s a serious disturbance in eating behaviour, like an unhealthy reduction in the amount you eat, or an extreme concern about your weight or body shape.

Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses, but they can be difficult to understand for someone who hasn’t experienced something similar. This can result in stigma and discrimination, which can make it harder for people to speak openly about what they’re going through and seek the help they need.

What are eating disorders?

"It is my most shameful, painful secret. I expect judgement – I know perfectly well that most people don’t understand eating disorders. I am afraid that knowing this new thing about me will mean people see me differently – as ‘less than’ I was before."(Emma) Living with anorexia: my most painful secret

Types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating. They frequently exist alongside depression and anxiety disorders, and can be complicit in a wide range of physical health complications that include serious heart conditions and kidney failure.

It’s important to note that eating disorders are not just about food and eating. Often, they relate to painful feelings that are hard for the individual to express, face or resolve. Focusing on food can be a way of disguising these difficulties. Food might become more and more important to everyday life, or, in extreme cases, the sole focus

Find out more about symptoms, treatments and tips for managing it on the NHSRethink Mental Illness and Mind websites.

The stigma around eating disorders

"Eating disorders are a secretive illness, feeding on silence, and therefore continue to be surrounded by stigma. So, to both of us it seems obvious that talking about them is the antidote. We both want to enable people to speak out about their experiences in the same way and make it okay to talk about mental illness.” (IIona and Sarah) Why not talk about eating disorders?

People with mental health problems say that the stigma and discrimination surrounding their mental health problem can be one of the hardest parts of their day to day experience. As a result of the stigma, we might shy away from supporting a friend, family member or colleague. And the consequences can be large. People with mental health problems can lose friendships, feel isolated, withdraw from the world and not get the help they need.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Talking about mental health shows someone you care about them. It aids recovery, and friendships are often strengthened in the process.

Personal blogs about living with eating disorders

Do you want to find out more about eating disorders? Read blogs and personal stories written by people with personal experience of eating disorders. By talking openly, our bloggers hope to increase understanding around mental health, break stereotypes and take the taboo out of something that – like physical health – affects us all.

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