Spotting the signs of an eating disorder

According to the UK eating disorders charity Beat, the average person experiencing eating disorder symptoms takes 149 weeks before they seek professional help - that's almost three years.

But as with most other conditions, the sooner you get the treatment you need for an eating disorder, the more likely you are to make a full and fast recovery. So the theme for this year’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 26 – March 4, 2018) is, ‘Why wait?’

Recognising the symptoms of an eating disorder early is vital. So here’s a quick rundown of the most common eating problems, including some of the signs you should look out for…

Bulimia The most common eating disorder, bulimia typically involves eating large amounts of food at the same time, followed by making yourself sick or taking laxatives.

People affected by bulimia may seem low, depressed, anxious and upset, and may have sudden mood swings. They may often eat in secret and crave unhealthy foods when they binge, as well as starve themselves between binges. They may also exercise frequently to counteract their bingeing. They may not, however, experience any significant changes in body weight.

Anorexia Around 10 percent of eating disorders are caused by anorexia, says Beat. Someone with anorexia may eat very little food or even stop eating altogether. This means they are usually underweight, and they may feel cold and weak, and find it hard to concentrate.

If you’re affected by anorexia you may wear baggy clothes to hide how much weight you’ve lost, but despite being underweight you may still feel fat. Other symptoms include depression, tiredness, anxiety, loss of interest in sex, bone density problems (such as osteoporosis) and suicidal thoughts.

Binge eating disorder People with binge eating disorder are typically compulsive eaters and rely on food for emotional support, especially when they feel stressed or upset. They often eat food high in sugar, fat or salt and eat constantly throughout the day or have large amounts of food at the same time.

Having binge eating disorder means you may also put on weight, and you may also develop one or more health problems associated with being overweight (such as diabetes, for instance).

Getting help

If you think you may have an eating disorder – or any kind of relationship with food that’s causing a problem – contact your GP as soon as possible, as the earlier you get help the better. Your doctor can refer you to services that offer treatments such as counselling, nutrition advice and other specialist support.

If you’re worried about what will happen when you go to your doctor, there’s lots of reassuring advice on Beat’s website.

Some people with diagnosed eating disorders may be offered antidepressants or other medicines to treat the underlying causes of their problems. Only serious cases are admitted to hospitals and clinics.

For more information, visit or speak to your local Careway pharmacist for confidential advice.

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