Eating disorders can affect men and women. People with an eating disorder worry about what they eat. Food can control their life and stop them making decisions about what they eat and how much they eat. You can get help for an eating disorder from your doctor and specialist services.
Reasons for having an eating disorder
People with an eating disorder use food to help them cope with stress or difficult situations, sometimes often without realising.
There are different reasons why people can develop an eating disorder including:
- long-term illness or disability
- family strife or a death in the family
- pressure at school, including bullying
- being abused
- worries about their personal appearance
- lack of self-esteem
Symptoms of an eating disorder
Someone who has an eating disorder may show symptoms such as:
- weight loss
- always weighing themselves or examining themselves in the mirror
- avoiding eating with others
- exercising too much
- thinking they are grossly overweight
- binge eating
- forced vomiting or fasting
- using laxatives and water-tablets
- secret eating with the same kind of food
- hoarding secret supplies of food
People with anorexia nervosa severely reduce the amount of food they eat because they fear gaining weight. They lose weight but view their body size as being larger than their actual size.
In severe cases, people can die from having anorexia because their normal body functions are disrupted.
People with bulimia nervosa eat a lot of food very quickly and then make themselves sick or take laxatives to get rid of what they've eaten. They do this in cycles, sometimes several times a day or every few months.
People with a binge eating disorder can gain large amounts of weight because they binge on food when they're not hungry.
Binge eating is usually in response to negative moods. Binge eaters can become obese and can develop problems with their heart, blood pressure and general level of fitness.
If left untreated, eating problems can seriously affect your health. If you think you, or a friend or relative has an eating disorder, talk to a doctor.
- suggest ways of treating the problem
- refer you to local eating disorder services
- give you contact information for support groups in your area
There are voluntary organisations in Northern Ireland providing support and advice to people with an eating disorder and their families. To find services, use the search tool below.
Eating Disorders Association NI provides support and a helpline for adults and young people with eating disorders and their families.
The Laurence Trust provides information and support to men living with eating disorders and their families.
More useful links
The information on this page was provided by the Department of Health.
For further information see terms and conditions.