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This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we want to raise awareness of what eating problems are, different types of eating disorder and how to get support.

If you need support now, click here to access Beat’s web chat or telephone support.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is an annual awareness week which aims to educate people on the realities of eating disorders. The week is organised by Beat and this year they’re campaigning for all UK medical schools to introduce proper training.

What is an eating problem?

An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult.

Many people think that someone with an eating problem will be over or underweight. People might also think that certain weights are linked to certain eating problems. Neither of these points are true.

Anyone can experience eating problems. This is regardless of age, gender, weight or background.

Food plays a significant part in our lives. Most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Sometimes you might:

  • have cravings
  • eat more than usual
  • lose your appetite
  • try to eat healthier.

Changing your eating habits like this every now and again is normal.

But if you feel like food and eating is taking over your life, it may become a problem.

What’s the difference between an eating problem and an eating disorder?

  • An eating disorder is a medical diagnosis. This diagnosis is based on your eating patterns and includes medical tests on your weight, blood and body mass index (BMI). See our page on diagnosed eating disorders for more information.
  • An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult. This can be just as hard to live with as a diagnosed eating disorder.


Types of eating disorder


If you get a bulimia diagnosis (known as bulimia nervosa), you may experience a cycle of what’s called bingeing and purging.

  • Bingeing is eating large amounts of food in one go. You might do this when you’re struggling with feelings or problems in your life.
  • Purging is acting to get rid of the food you have eaten after bingeing. You might feel guilty or ashamed of what you’ve eaten.


If you get an anorexia diagnosis (known as anorexia nervosa), you’re not eating enough food. This means you’re not getting the energy you need to stay healthy.

Some people think anorexia is about slimming and dieting, but it’s much more complex. At its core, it’s often connected to low self-esteem, negative self-image and feelings of intense distress.

Binge eating disorder

If you get a diagnosis for binge eating disorder, you might feel unable to stop eating, even if you want to.

With binge eating disorder, you might rely on food to make you feel better. You might also use food to hide difficult feelings. It is sometimes described as ‘compulsive eating’.

Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED)

If you get an OSFED diagnosis, you have an eating disorder. However, you don’t meet all the criteria for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.

This doesn’t mean that your eating disorder is less serious.

OSFED just means that your disorder doesn’t fit into current diagnoses. Getting a diagnosis of OSFED can help you access treatment and support.

Previously, OSFED was known as ‘eating disorder not otherwise specified’ (EDNOS).

For more details, see Beat’s information about OSFED.

Treatment and support for eating problems

Getting treatment can help you develop healthy, balanced eating patterns. It can also help you face and cope with the underlying issues of your eating problem.

Talking to your doctor

Talking about your eating problems can feel scary. But to access treatment, the first step is usually to talk to your GP or hospital doctor. They should then be able to refer you to specialist services.

Online self-help programmes

In some cases, at first you might get support through an online self-help programme. You should receive short support sessions alongside the programme. These may be face-to-face or over the phone.

If you find the programme hard to complete, or find it unhelpful, ask your GP for more support.

Talking treatments for eating problems

Like some other mental health problems, you might be offered talking treatments for eating problems.

Medication for eating problems

There are no specific drugs to treat eating disorders. However, you may be offered medication for underlying factors such as depression or anxiety. For example, you may be offered an antidepressant to help manage these feelings.

You should be offered medication alongside talking treatments. Medication shouldn’t be the only thing you’re offered. Your doctor will decide whether to offer you medication – you can decide whether you want to take it.

Admission to a hospital or clinic

You may need to go into a hospital or clinic because of your eating problem. This might be necessary if:

  • your doctor or care team feel you are very unwell or underweight
  • other kinds of treatment haven’t worked
  • your home environment is making it hard for you to stay well.

Posted on: 1st March 2022

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