Managing an eating disorder

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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. 
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

 

Resources

Resource

An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for parents

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for teachers

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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Asking for help (adult)

When it’s time to talk about your mental health.

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Asking for help (young person)

A simple guide for young people to help talk about their feelings.

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Depression booklet

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

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Resource

Looking after yourself during your GCSEs - A guide for pupils

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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Resource

Low mood poster

Poster created in partnership with Bank Workers Charity highlighting common causes of low mood, how to help yourself feel better and information on where to get more help.

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Resource

Making the move to university: care leavers

Read how to look after your mental health if you are starting university after being in care.

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Making the move to university: international students

Moving to university is especially tough for those who are coming from another country. Don't forget to make sure you prioritise your mental health, and read how to do so here.

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Making the move to university: LGBTQ+ students

Read our resource on how you can best take care of your mental health when making the transition to university if you are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

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Making the move to university: not fitting in

Read our guide on how to protect your wellbeing if you are starting university and feel like you may not fit in in any way.

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Resource

Making the move to university: students with adverse childhood experiences

Resource for those starting university who have had adverse childhood experiences such as trauma or abuse.

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Resource

Making the move to university: young carers

Read how to access support and prioritise your mental health while transitioning to university as a young carer.

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Resource

Managing Stress and Anxiety

A booklet giving tips on how students can look after their mental health during exams and assessments.

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Resource

Patent and trade mark professionals

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

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Resource

Perfectionism

Aiming high can sometimes come at a cost. This eight page guide looks at ‘unhealthy perfectionism’ – how to spot it and advice on how to develop effective interventions.

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Resource

POSTER Tips for managing stress

A4 poster giving six practical tips on how students can look after their mental health during exams and assessments.

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Resource

Students Against Depression posters

Posters to be displayed in Higher and Further Education areas

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Resource

Taking care of your mental health for occupational health practitioners

This resource for occupational health practitioners suggests ways for you to take time out of your day to focus on yourself in order to stay healthy and stress-free.

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Resource

Top Tips For Students

A booklet giving tips on how students can look after their mental health.

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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.

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Resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

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

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Resource

Wellbeing Action Plan (young person)

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

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Resource

Wellbeing Journal

A simple, journal to help young people think about and write down the things which make them feel good.

View resource

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