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
Supporting someone you know
Mental health problems are common, but nearly nine in ten people who have these experiences say they face stigma and discrimination as a result.
Being judged and isolated can be harder than the mental health problem itself. And without support from those around them, people with mental health problems can lose what they care about most: their job, their family and friends, their home.
Having a mate in your corner can make all the difference.
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.