“Can we talk? I think I have an Eating Disorder.”

What is an eating disorder? Are there signs I should be on the lookout for? And what do I do if I’m suffering? “Eating disorders are…

What is an eating disorder? Are there signs I should be on the lookout for? And what do I do if I’m suffering?

“Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice, a diet gone wrong or a cry for attention. They can take many different forms and interfere with a person’s day-to-day life.” 

Eating Disorders, Victoria.

An Eating Disorder can come with many faces. It doesn’t matter who you are, your age, your social status, sexual orientation or gender; These disorders can thrive within anyone. 

Traditionally, all eating disorders have been categorised by unhealthy eating habits, excessive levels of exercise and preoccupation with weight or shape. This is a very generlised categorisation, and there are many other ways to determine the presence of an eating disorder.

Note; Remember that an eating disorder IS NOT solely about food. They often create deep roots covered in a variety of trauma and issues spanning over a varying period of time. 


What are the most common Eating Disorders?

There are various types of eating disorders ranging from Anorexia Nervosa right through to the lesser know Pica. These are only some of the most commonly experienced eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa.

Those with anorexia nervosa (AN) are often diagnosed based on low body weight caused by severe food restriction. They may lose weight by severely restricting their calorie intake, overexercising and, on occasions, may take part in purging behaviours (i.e self-induced vomiting or laxative misuse).

They’re often stuck within a loop wherein the anorexia is very much in control. It causes them to become blinded to the way things really are. For example, they may be unable to see themselves as others do i.e bigger while others see them as frail.

With AN there comes a deep fear of weight gain, and so the individual strives to continue to lose weight despite the life-threatening impacts.

Bulimia Nervosa.

Those with bulimia are caught within a constant cycle of eating large quantities of food (binging) and then compensating for that behaviour. There are many ways in which those with this eating disorder can choose to ‘purge‘ including; Self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic use, fasting for an extended period of time or participating in over-exercise.

Note; There are obvious cross-overs between this eating disorder and that of Anorexia Nervosa that we’ll discuss in a later part of the series.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

Also known as BED or Emotional Eating, this eating disorder is often associated with a higher body weight. It involves recurrent episodes of eating a large quantity of food, loss of control of eating, a sense of shame, distress and guilt after a binge and the absence of compensating behaviors. This sets it apart from Bulimia wherein the person then compensates using a variety of methods (see above).

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder.

Standing for Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder and previously known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). This is considered a ‘catch-all‘ diagnoses for sufferers who clearly have an issue with food and weight, but don’t fall neatly into any other frame.

Note: You can read more about OSFED (and the other disorders) on the Beat website.


What might you be experiencing?

There are a variety of symptoms you might be experiencing some of which are mental, while others are physical. Some symptoms can be seen across all types of eating disorders, while others are specific.

Generalised Eating Disorder symptoms.

  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Feeling Cold. Experiencing cold hands and feet in particular.
  • Dizziness.
  • Chest pains.
  • Palpitations.
  • Bowel issues.
  • Lack of menstrual cycle (in women of childbearing age) in both those of a low and high body weight.
  • Dry hair and skin.
  • Hair loss.
  • Lanugo (growth of fine body hair in a bid to keep sufferer warmOften found in those with Anorexia Nervosa).
  • Low body weight or a high body weight/obesity in the case of BED.
  • Brain shrinkage.
  • Impaired body functions.
  • Concentration and memory issues.
  • Heightened levels of depression and anxiety.
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Note: If you want to know more about symptoms specific to each disorder, please visit Beat for a full range of information.


How do I know if I have an Eating Disorder & what can I do?

An easy way to notice an issue within yourself is to ask a various set of question to which you have to be 100% honest;

  • Am I constantly obsessing over food, shape and weight?
  • Has it consumed me to the point where I am unable to function?
  • Have I experienced any significant changes in my weight lately due to over/under eating?
  • Do I have issues with how I see myself? I.e do I see myself as too ‘fat‘, despite being considered by others as much too small?
  • Do I find myself frequently avoiding food, going for long periods without food, eating too much and then either purging or feeling extreme shame/guilt?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more above there’s a chance you have an eating disorder. However, please don’t take my word for it. It’s always best to seek a formal diagnosis from a medical professional.

What can you do?

When it comes to asking for help with a potential eating disorder it can be rather scary. Luckily there are a number of ways you can better prepare yourself to do the seemingly impossible.

Talk to a trusted family member or friend.

This may seem very daunting. Some people find it easier to talk to those closest to them rather than a stranger, sadlyI am not one of those people. I know how difficult it can be to seem vulnerable to those you love dearest. BUT your friends and family hold a vital part in helping you get help, and they’ll also play a big role in your recovery.

It should be noted that not all families/friends are going to be supportive. Be aware and prepared for this before going into the situation.

Contact you GP.

When you see your GP be very clear about your concerns. If you’ve confided in a friend or family member it might make you feel more comfortable to bring them along with you for moral support.

Your GP should (hopefully) refer you on for a mental health/eating disorder assessment. However, I’m only speaking in terms of Anorexia Nervosa. Other eating disorders may make it difficult to access help due to the nature of our health service. DO NOT be discouraged. There’s help out there, and if you find your GP redundant you can always contact BEAT for more information.

Contact BEAT or a local charity such as the Eating Disorder Association (Northern Ireland).

BEAT is the national eating disorder charity in the UK. They have a library of information for both sufferers and their loved ones. If you’re having problems accessing help through other means, you can always call them to receive free, confidential advice on where to go next.

Note: BEAT is a UK based charity. Please use the charity equivalent to your country for the best result.


43 comments

  1. Thank you so much for reading. I have a guest post coming up in regard to over-exercising and anorexia from a male’s perspective that I think you’ll be interested in.

  2. I know I obsessed over exercising for a while. I do think I went a bit nutty. But I did get over that thankfully. Sending you good wishes about handling the challenges of an eating disorder. It can be scary.

  3. Thank you for reading. I have many more of these articles to come as it’s coming up to EDAWeek and I want to spread as much awareness as I possibly can.

  4. Take your meds, even if they are horrible. I hate mine but I have to take them otherwise I just fall into a deep, deep low and can’t seem to get out.
    Sending you lots of love and hope. x

  5. Thank you for sharing. I have more to come and many more on the site as I’m sure you know. I also have worksheets available both digitally and printable which can help them work through different recovery aspects in their head. It’s called the 10 Days of Recovery and you can see my own responses (listed on the menu above).

    I hope this information or any others that you chose to share can help in some way. Eating disorders are terrible things. x

  6. It’s a big step. Sometimes I still think that I’m not ready for healing and want to revert back, and other day’s I’m fighting tooth and nail to eat because I want to get better. Ultimately it comes down to “Do I want to live the rest of my life like this? Or do I want to live my life to the fullest, not caring what anyone thinks and eating what I damn well want?”. I flip flop between the two constantly, luckily more so the positive ‘healing’ voice as of late. But you can’t force anyone to want to get better nor can you force them to get better and remain there. I’ve heard so many stories of people going into recovery, getting weight restored and then relapsing because it was forced on them.

    Like I said, it’s a big step and often complicated. I have a whole series called “The 10 Days of Recovery” which you can find in my menu bar. I go through various stages of coming to terms with the need for recovery. I hope that can help shed some light.

    As always, thank you so, so much for reading.

  7. Another excellent discussion on recognizing and helping with eating disorders! I think it is really hard to get people to recognize them. I would love to hear your story of how you came to recognize your need for healing, either in a link that you have already shared or when you are ready to approach that. Sometimes we can recognize the symptoms and signs, but the person is just not ready to acknowledge that and move towards healing. Is there any way we can help that or does it have to come from within the person? Ah, so many questions!

  8. Omg! I have this exact problem. I have to take my anti-depressants. I hate take those meds. But have no other option, one night I avoid it, the next day will be a disaster for me. ???? Thank you for sharing this. It will help people to identify the actual problem.

  9. My heart goes out to those experiencing an eating disorder. How hurtful to realize what’s happening but unable to reach out for help. I get how hard it is to just go talk to someone. I am glad BEAT exists. I am going to look for a similar organization in my country just to be aware and add to my resources. If it helps even one person, it will be worth it. I’ve heard of students studying on campus going through body image issues and suffering through an eating disorder. Thanks for this valuable information.

  10. Hopefully, I think I don’t have any eating disorders! However, I do know some people who keep struggling with such problems. I’ll share this article with them. 🙂

  11. It is hard to identify eating disorders, especially when it involves your own person. Some eating disorders are more obvious than others, such as emotional eating.

  12. Thank you so much for reading Krysten. I hope you never need this information for you or any of your friends or family, but it’s there should the time come.

  13. It’s so hard to be there for us. I can see that now but at the time I didn’t. I didn’t want anyone to help me because they were just, in my head, getting in my way. I love that you tried though. You’re a true friend.

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  14. Thank you for reading. It certainly needs more attention brought to it, especially since ED’s are presenting in younger and younger people each year.

  15. Thank you for stopping in and reading. I have the same mindset as you in regards to eating however I also have the anorexic mindset in regards to weight and calories. It’s a constant struggle.

  16. Eating disorder is a serious reality. I don’t like eating either. I am not anorexic or bulimic. I just feel I am wasting time eating! But I do eat and I have a high metabolism rate so I basically eat throughout the day. 🙂

  17. Wow, this is such a great article! I love how you covered lots of important information and solutions that will surely be helpful for those having eating disorder. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  18. Wow, what an awesome article. I love the detailed information and solution you shared here, which would be very helpful for those who have eating disorder. Thank you for sharing this.

  19. This would be so tough. I had a friend who went through this and I tried to be there for her as best I could. I never told her I understood what she was going through, because I didn’t. I was just around whenever she wanted to talk.

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