It is estimated that around a quarter of eating disorders affect men. The conditions are not confined to women nor are they restricted to young people. It is possible to develop an eating disorder at any age, although many cases are between the ages of 13 and 17. Reasons for a person developing an eating disorder are varied and complex, and there is no one recovery path. Recovering from an eating disorder is likely to be as individual to each person, but it will start by someone recognising the symptoms.
1. The symptoms of an eating disorder depends on the type of condition a person has developed. Some of the types include:
Anorexia nervosa - a person tries to maintain a weight that is too low. They might try to do this be not eating enough food, doing too much exercise or practising both
Binge-eating disorder or BED - a person who eats a large amount of food while losing control of their eating, feeling uncomfortably full, upset or guilty
Bulimia - a person develops bulimia who loses control, eating a large amount of food in a short space of time (bingeing) but then makes themselves deliberately sick to get rid of it. They might also use laxatives to get rid of the food in their stomach, restrict their eating or over-exercise to try not to gain weight
Other specified feeding or eating disorder or OFSED - this is used to describe a person whose symptoms are not exactly the same as the previous three disorders. However it can still be a serious illness.
2. Symptoms exhibited by people with eating disorders include: eating very little, exercising a lot, spending a lot of time worrying about their body shape and weight, having very strict habits or routines about food, mood swings, acting secretively or defensively about their eating habits and deliberately making themselves sick or taking laxatives after eating.
3. Physical signs of people who may have an eating disorder can include:
Digestive problems or their periods stop, if they are female
They may feel cold, dizzy or tired
Their weight may be either very high or very low for someone of their age and height
A person could still have an eating disorder, even if they do not have all the symptoms described.
4. Causes of eating disorders could include:
A person experiencing criticism for the food they eat, their weight or body shape
A person experiencing pressure from their job to be slim, for example, models, athletes, actors or jockeys
If they or a member of their family have a history of eating disorders, alcohol or drug dependency or depression
If they have an obsessive personality, are a perfectionist, or have low self-esteem or anxiety
If they have experienced sexual abuse
5. Treatment for eating disorders could include referral to an eating disorder specialist or team for assessment and treatment, counselling and regular health checks.
Help for Eating Disorders
Working though a guided self-help programme for those with binge-eating disorder or bulimia. People with bulimia may be offered therapy as part of a group
If a person is diagnosed with OFSED or other specified feeding or eating disorder, their treatment will depend which disorder is most closely related to the one they have.
If you or someone you know seem to have some of these symptoms, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Make an appointment with your GP, or offer to go along with someone who may need help. Some charities offer information to help, if you suspect that someone you know has an eating disorder. Check out Beat for more details and they also have a helpline.
Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from 25 February - 3rd March 2019 and aims to highlight the experiences of people with eating disorders.