Eating Disorders

Eating disorders include a number of conditions with the common theme of an unhealthy relationship with food.  The most common conditions are:

  • Anorexia nervosa, where weight is controlled by excessive dieting and exercise. This leads to excessive food restriction and an irrational fear of gaining weight, with a distorted body image. It typically involves excessive weight loss.
  • Bulimia nervosa, where a pattern of binge eating and vomiting and/or the use of laxatives, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time, followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed, usually by self-induced vomiting and/or by the use of laxatives diuretics or excessive exercise
  • Binge-eating, where dieting and binge-eating or compulsive over-eating are combined without inducing vomiting but with sufferers more likely to become overweight.  During such binges, a person rapidly consumes an excessive amount of food. Most people who have eating binges try to hide this behaviour from others, and often feel ashamed about being overweight or depressed about their overeating


It is common for young people, particularly girls although increasingly boys, to feel they need to be thin, and for some to resort to an unrelenting pattern of restrictive dieting, binge-eating and vomiting in an attempt to achieve this. Such problems are associated with considerable emotional stress, difficulty concentrating, feeling depressed and becoming obsessive about eating.

There are also major physical health risks.  A range of body systems are affected including the stomach, liver, bone development and reproductive system.  If vomiting is occurring, additional damage can be inflicted on the teeth and kidneys.


Eating disorders are remediable. When people are trapped in this behaviour it tends to be rather secretive and not spoken about.  Acknowledging the problem to at least one other person and looking for guidance from self-help literature can be the start of a process of recovery.

Your GP is the best person to approach even if you ultimately seek help privately.  They can refer you to a specialist counsellor, psychiatrist or psychologist.  Treatment will depend on the condition but will usually combine talking treatments such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and advice on eating and nutrition leading to healthy weight gain.  The use of medication in the treatment of eating disorders is generally only recommended to treat any co-existing symptoms such as depression or obsessive compulsive disorder.

Our consultants will be able to treat you in our out-clinics. However, if weight loss is severe, they may suggest treatment is started in a hospital.

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