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Eating disorders

Cheshire and Wirral NHS Trust have created a website to support people with eating disorders. It’s called Creating Hope Together, and answers frequently asked questions plus gives you self-help tips to support you to make time for yourself.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. They can affect anyone, at any age.

People who suffer from an eating disorder may use food to help them cope with stress or difficult situations, often without realising it. They may also use food in order to stay in control of their life and their emotions. This can stop them from making realistic decisions about what they eat and how much they should eat.

Most people with an eating disorder have developed one due to a combination of reasons. These can include:

  • depression
  • a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence
  • problems in personal or family relationships
  • domestic violence or physical abuse
  • worries about their personal appearance

Types of eating disorder

Anorexia nervosa: Sufferers of anorexia nervosa severely reduce the amount of food they eat due to a fear of gaining weight. Some sufferers can eat nothing or fast for a number of days, skip meals and do too much exercise.

People who have anorexia can lose a lot of weight and view their body size as being larger than its actual size. In severe cases, people can die from the effects of anorexia as the body cannot function properly, especially if they do not seek any help.

Bulimia: Bulimia nervosa is different from anorexia and is actually more common.

Bulimics eat large amounts of food very quickly and then make themselves sick or take laxatives to get rid of it all. They can also starve themselves for short periods of time. This happens in cycles. Depending on how seriously the person suffers from bulimia, cycles can happen every few months or even several times every day.

Bulimia can be a lot more difficult to detect than anorexia. Whereas anorexics lose a great deal of weight, a bulimic’s weight usually stays the same even though their problems with eating and food remain.

Binge eating: Not all eating disorders cause weight loss. Binge eaters can gain large amounts of weight because they eat large amounts of food, even when they're not actually hungry.

Binge eating is usually in response to negative moods. Binge eaters can become obese and can develop problems with their heart, blood pressure and general level of fitness.

Do I have an eating disorder?

Doctors sometimes use a questionnaire to help identify people who may have an eating disorder. The questionnaire asks the following five questions:

  • do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  • do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?
  • have you recently lost more than one stone (six kilograms) in a three-month period?
  • do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?
  • would you say food dominates your life?

If you answer ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, you may have an eating disorder. Please visit your doctor for an assessment.

Where to get help

If an eating disorder goes undetected, it can cause health problems by stopping the body from getting the essential energy and nutrients it needs to function properly. Sufferers of an eating disorder will not always have the same symptoms as someone else who has the same problem.

If you think you or one of your friends or relatives have an eating disorder, talk to a doctor. They can suggest ways of treating the problem and refer you if needed.

Response

Based in Birkenhead, Response provides confidential information, advice and guidance to young people aged 13-19 years across the borough. Young people who need help, support, advice or information on any subject can speak in confidence to one of the friendly Response workers.

Response can be contacted by phone on 0151 666 4123, by email at response@wirral.gov.uk or in person at the Callister Centre, 19 Argyle Street, Birkenhead CH41 1AD.

Beat Youthline

Beat is a UK charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape. Beat’s vision is that eating disorders will be beaten.

Beat’s aims:

  • to change the way everyone thinks and talks about eating disorders
  • to improve the way services and treatment are provided
  • to help anyone believe that their eating disorder can be beaten

The charity does this by:

  • challenging the stereotypes and stigma that people with eating disorders face
  • campaigning for better services and treatment
  • providing information, support and encouragement to seek treatment and recovery

How do I get in touch with Beat Youthline?

You can contact the Beat Youthline by telephone, text or email.  All of its advisers are experienced in listening to young people who feel they have problems with food.  

If you are 25 or under, call the Beat Youthline on local rate number 0345 634 7650. They offer a call back service so if you want to save the cost of the call please ask them. The Youthline is open Monday to Wednesday between 1pm-4pm. Outside of these hours you can email the staff or access the message boards.

Visit the support and services section of the B-eat website