Eating disorders

Eating disorders can affect anyone at anytime. Find out what you can do to support yourself or someone you know who might have an eating disorder.
Girl standing apart from her friends

Eating disorders happen when you have an emotional issue or behaviour related to food that makes it hard or impossible for you to eat healthily.

Young people go through phases of needing more and less food as they are growing up and becoming mature. You may also be leaving home or sorting out your own food for the first time. These changes and new responsibilities can create stress. Sometimes it can be hard to avoid over-eating or under-eating.

For some people, eating can become a problem. This can happen to people of any size and age, and it happens to boys as well as girls. Many people think it is related to being unhappy with your weight, or how you look, but there are often other reasons too, which can be very complicated.

Take action: Although only some people have eating disorders, everyone will benefit from having a healthy relationship with food

Types of Eating Disorder

There are many different kinds of eating disorder, but the three most common are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa - when a person tries to lose weight, buy starving themselves and/or exercising excessively
  • Bulimia - when a person binge eats and then makes themselves sick, or takes laxatives
  • Binge Eating Disorder - when a person eats a lot of food in a short amount of time

There are others, and people may have some symptoms but not others.

Instant expert: To find out more about different types of eating disorders that might affect a young person go to the beat eating disorders website.

If you, or a friend, have a concern

Most young people who are worried about any aspect of their weight, eating, or stress as a result of either of these, talk to their parents or carers first. You can also talk to your school health nurse. There is a School Health Nurse in every secondary school in Oxfordshire, and they are experts in young people's health.

You can also go to your Doctor, with or without your parents or carers.

Take action: If you are age 16-17, you can also self-refer for local support from from Oxfordshire CAMHS.

A serious problem

Under-eating or over-eating when you are a child or young person can damage your health for the rest of your life, especially if combined with depression, anxiety or substance misuse. You can cause permanent serious damage to bones and your digestive system. Some people have even died.

Teenagers may be particularly at risk because their needs for nutrition change a lot. They also feel the pressure to look good more powerfully than either adults of children. Hormones and other changes make it harder  to control behaviour, while growth spurts may include putting on weight or unexpected body shape changes. They may also be more inclined to blame themselves and try to solve problems on their own.

If you or a friend have a problem, then taking action early can make the problem easier to solve. 

Learning more about healthy eating, sticking to regular meal and exercise plans and being kind to yourself are simple actions which can be helpful.

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