We all have a personal relationship with food. Most of us like to indulge in our favourite ‘comfort foods’ from time to time, sometimes through overeating or bulimia, we can take these indulgences and our relationship with food in general, too far. There may also be times that we restrict the amount of food we eat. When our eating habits start to impact other areas of our life, such as our health, or social life, they can start to become a problem.

There are two common overeating problems that people suffer from: bulimia and binge eating disorder.

 

Bulimia

Bulimia is when you eat large amounts of food in one go for one reason or another. You then feel guilty or ashamed and want to get rid of the food through purging.

If you have bulimia you may experience the following symptoms:

 

  • Eating a lot of food in one go and then trying to get rid of it through making yourself sick or using laxatives
  • Feeling ashamed and guilty about binging or purging
  • Thinking that you are fat or hating your body
  • Having a craving for certain foods
  • Frequently being de hydrated

Your weight usually remains constant so people aren’t likely to spot that you have a problem. This can make it harder to get support and it is really important that you are able to recognise something is wrong.

 

Binge Eating

A binge eating disorder is when you feel like you’re addicted to food and can’t stop yourself from eating. You may also feel like you rely on food for emotional support or comfort.

If you have a binge eating disorder you may experience the following symptoms:

 

  • Eating without thinking about it
  • Hiding how much you eat
  • Eating until you feel sick
  • Feeling ashamed or embarrassed
  • Putting on weight
  • Health problems associated with being overweight

 

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder where a person keeps their body weight as low as possible. People with anorexia usually do this by restricting the amount of food they eat, making themselves vomit, and exercising excessively. 

The condition often develops out of an anxiety about body shape and weight that originates from a fear of being fat or a desire to be thin. Many people with anorexia have a distorted image of themselves, thinking they're fat when they're not.

Anorexia most commonly affects girls and women, although it has become more common in boys and men in recent years. On average, the condition first develops at around the age of 16 to 17.

 

Signs and symptoms of anorexia

People with anorexia often go to great lengths to hide their behaviour from family and friends by lying about what they've eaten or pretending to have eaten earlier

Signs someone may have anorexia or another eating disorder include:

 

  • missing meals, eating very little, or avoiding eating any fatty foods
  • obsessively counting calories in food 
  • leaving the table immediately after eating so they can vomit
  • taking appetite suppressants, laxatives, or diuretics (a type of medication that helps remove fluid from the body)
  • repeatedly weighing themselves or checking their body in the mirror
  • physical problems, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzyhair loss, or dry skin

 

Anorexia can also be associated with other psychological problems, such as depressionanxiety, low self-esteem, alcohol misuse, and self-harm.

 

Getting help

People with anorexia often don't seek help, perhaps because they're afraid, or don't recognise they have a problem. Many have hidden their condition for a long time – sometimes years.

 

  • The most important first step is for someone with anorexia to realise they need help and to want to get better.
  • If you think someone you know has anorexia, try talking to them about your worries and encourage them to seek help.
  • This can be a very difficult conversation because they may be defensive and refuse to accept they have a problem. However, it's important not to criticise or pressure them as this can make things worse.
  • If you think you may have anorexia, try to seek help as soon as possible. You could start by talking to a person you trust, such as a member of your family or a friend, and perhaps ask them to go with you to see your GP.