Managing an eating disorder

White curve
How to manage an eating disorder
Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses. Anyone, no matter what their age, gender, or background, can develop one. Some examples of eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder and anorexia. It’s also possible for someone’s symptoms, and therefore their diagnosis, to change over time. For example, someone could have anorexia, but their symptoms could later change so that a diagnosis of bulimia would be more appropriate. 
Two woman having coffee together
Eating disorders can vary a lot

Your circumstances, feelings, and symptoms may be very different from what you’ve seen or read about, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an eating disorder. The way eating disorders present themselves can be hugely varied from person to person. This means eating disorders can be difficult to identify, and often those suffering can appear healthy despite being unwell. If you think you might be having problems with your eating or feel that difficult feelings or situations are making you change your eating habits or feel differently about food, you could have an eating disorder or be developing one.

“I was dwarfed by everything. Starving myself also starved my anxiety; it made me numb and that made me able to cope – being dull to everything made things easier to handle”

Dave Chawner, 2018. Weight Expectations. One Man’s Recovery from Anorexia

What next?

Maybe you don't want to tell anyone, because you feel your eating disorder isn’t serious enough. You don’t want to worry people or waste their time. You might feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. Whether your eating difficulties began recently, you’ve been struggling for a while, or you were treated for an eating disorder in the past that you think might be coming back, you deserve to have your concerns acknowledged respectfully. You deserve to be taken seriously and to be supported in the same way as if you were affected by any other illness.

Talking to someone

Telling someone your worries about the eating disorder and about recovery can be daunting.

Before you talk to someone, you could prepare by writing down what you want to say. It might be helpful to think about:

  • The thoughts and feelings affecting your eating
  • How long the eating difficulties have been going on
  • What the person you’re talking to could do to support you in getting appropriate help

If a chat in person works for you, that’s great! If it doesn’t, you could write what you want to say and read it aloud, send the person an email, phone them, speak to them using text or online messaging. Each way of starting the discussion has its pros and cons – it’s about what feels comfortable for you and how you think you’ll have the most productive conversation.

It’s normal to feel scared at the idea of telling someone about your eating disorder.

Moving to a new location

It’s very important to find treatment as early as possible. Earlier treatment means a greater chance of fully recovering from your eating disorder. Your first point of contact in the health care system is likely to be your general practitioner (GP). If you have never spoken to a healthcare professional, a GP will be responsible for your initial diagnosis and should help to coordinate your care, at least in the early stages of treatment. If they determine you may have an eating disorder, they should refer you to an eating disorders specialist.

If you are moving to a new area and you have been living with an eating disorder and receiving treatment it is important not to delay having your care transferred. It is important you allow yourself time to contact your local services to ensure your treatment isn’t delayed.


Eating disorder seeking treatment guide


Support available

Beat, the national eating disorder charity, has lots of information that you may find useful if you think you or someone you know has an eating disorder and as you start thinking about getting help:


Visit the Beat website


Finally... a really useful tip: use the BLAST approach

Think about what kind of things help you to feel better when you’re;

  • Bored,
  • Lonely,
  • Angry,
  • Stressed or
  • Tired

then when you feel the urge to use behaviours, you can try to identify the emotions that might be causing it and look for positive distractions from that feeling.


Read the full BLAST approach




Starting University

A resource for young people about to start university

View resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (aged 16+)

Our new Wellbeing Action Plan is for all young people attending sixth form or college.

View resource


How to spot and respond to unhealthy perfectionism

View resource

Asking for help

Tips for young people on when it’s time to talk about their mental health, or if they want to help a friend

View resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

View resource

Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

View resource

Patent and trade mark professionals

Protecting your mental health and wellbeing: A guide for patent and trade mark professionals

View resource

Depression booklet

Featuring useful facts, figures and information, this booklet also contains sources of help and what not to say to people experiencing depression

View resource

Was this article helpful?

Your feedback helps us create better content so if this article helped, please leave a like below and let others know.
Follow us
The Charlie Waller Trust
Queens Voluntary Service Award