Eating disorders

Find out what you can do to support yourself or someone you know who might have an eating disorder
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Girl standing apart from her friends

Eating disorders happen when a person has an emotional issue or behaviour with food that makes it harder to eat healthily.

Adolescents go through phases of needing more and less food. You may also be leaving home or sorting out your own food for the first time. Hormones also have an effect. These changes can create stress. 

For some people, eating can become a problem. This can happen to people of any size and age, and it happens to people of any gender. 

Take action: Everyone benefits from having a healthy relationship with food

Types of Eating Disorder

There are many different kinds of eating disorder, but all include eating too much, too little, or eating the wrong kinds of food.

Instant expert: Find out more about different types of eating disorders on the NHS website.

If you, or a friend, have a concern

Young people who are worried about their weight, eating, or stress around food often talk to their friends or research eating disorders on the internet. This can make problems worse. A safer approach is to talk to your school health nurse

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

Take action: There is lots of helpful information about tackling eating disorders on the Oxfordshire CAHMS website.

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.

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. 

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

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

Bigorexia, orthorexia and over-exercising

Bigorexia, sometimes called muscle dysmorphia, refers to someone damaging their health through building bulk and muscle. Risky levels of exercise, extreme diets and taking non-prescription drugs like steroids or diet pills can all cause permanent health problems.

Orthorexia occurs when someone's interest in eating the right diet and being healthy becomes so intense and all-consuming that it starts to cause them health problems. 

All kinds of eating disorder can be combined with over-exercising. Injury and health harm can occur through exercising at risky levels, although you need to be exercising at very high levels before this happens.

Tale action: People who are sleep deprived are more likely to eat too much or too little. Find out more about improving your sleep.

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