When someone has an eating disorder, they can have an unhealthy relationship with food which can make them ill. It might involve eating too much or too little or becoming obsessed with controlling their weight. The most common types of eating disorders are:
- Anorexia nervosa: Worrying about weight or body image, and behaving in a way that keeps weight down. For example, not eating enough food or exercising too much. This can result in the child or young person becoming very ill
- Bulimia nervosa: Going through periods of eating a lot of food quickly ('bingeing') and then trying to get rid of calories in unhealthy ways. For example, by making themselves sick, using laxatives ('purging'), exercising too much, taking medication or using diet supplements
- Binge-eating disorder: Regularly eating large portions of food all at once (often in secret) until they feel uncomfortably full, and then often upset or guilty
- OSFED: this means 'other specified feeding or eating disorder' and means they don't have all the typical symptoms of one of the types above – it does not mean it is a less serious illness.
When an eating disorder gets really bad it can put someone’s life at risk. However, there are treatments that can help, and people can recover from an eating disorder; the sooner that support can be identified, the better the chance of recovery.
Children and young people with eating disorders often have other mental health problems as well, such as anxiety.
Physical symptoms in severe eating disorders might include:
- Symptoms of starvation e.g. feeling cold or dizzy
- Stomach or digestive problems which have no obvious cause
- Problems with teeth (some people with an eating disorder make themselves sick to get rid of the food that they have eaten and the acids from the stomach then cause damage to teeth)
- Females may find periods become affected; they can stop or become irregular