Eating Disorders Awareness Week (1st – 7th March 2021)

The first week of March we need to think about eating disorders, as it is so important for young people to have lots of information.

There are lots of types of eating disorders and we need to look at them now.

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses affecting people of all ages, from young people to much older people, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. People with eating disorders use disordered eating behaviour as a way to cope with difficult situations or feelings. This behaviour can include limiting the amount of food they eat, or eating very large quantities of food at once, getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy means (e.g. making themselves sick, misusing laxatives, fasting, or excessive exercise), or a combination of these behaviours.

It’s important to remember that eating disorders are not all about food itself, but about feelings too. The way the person treats food may make them feel more able to cope, or may make them feel in control, though they might not be aware of the purpose this behaviour is serving. An eating disorder is never the fault of the person experiencing it, and anyone who has an eating disorder deserves fast, compassionate support to help them get better.

So that doctors and nurses can help and choose the right kind of treatment for someone, there are a number of different eating disorders that someone can be diagnosed with.

They have different names and you might have heard of some of them. It’s even possible for someone to move between the different types if their symptoms change – there is often a lot of overlap between different eating disorders. So people can experience more than one disorder.

Types of eating disorders include:

It’s most common for people to be diagnosed with “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED). This is not a less serious type of eating disorder – it just means that the person’s eating disorder doesn’t exactly match the list of symptoms a doctor or specialist will check to diagnose them with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

Eating disorders can be very serious as they can be fatal, and they cause serious harm both physically and emotionally. But even though they are serious illnesses, eating disorders are treatable.

It is very possible for people with eating disorders to make a full recoveries. Like any other illness, the sooner someone with an eating disorder is treated, the more likely recovery is. The most important thing is getting yourself or the person you’re supporting into treatment as quickly as possible.

But who gets eating disorders?

There are a lot of stereotypes about who can have an eating disorder. These can be very harmful. . Most people would think that it is young women who are most likely and they are but it is important to remember anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of their age, gender, or ethnic or cultural background. It is thought that around a quarter of sufferers are male.

In fact, the number of sufferers among men and boys, older people, and people from ethnic or cultural minority backgrounds could be higher than we currently think. However, for many reasons people in these categories are much less likely to talk about it.

I think we now need to watch a short film to help explain more before we go on further.

But what causes eating disorders?

Eating disorders are complex – there is no single reason why someone develops an eating disorder. A whole range of different factors, including someone’s genetics, biology, psychology and surroundings, can combine to make it more likely any one person develops the condition.

We don’t yet know everything about what causes an eating disorder, but we do know there are effective treatments available. Lots of research is taking place all over the world and we now know that eating disorders have much more to do with biology than was previously thought.

Everyone is different, not everyone will experience the same symptoms, or respond the same way to treatment, or take the same amount of time to recover from an eating disorder.

Some people can be affected by more than one type of eating disorder or find their symptoms changing type as they recover. Someone with an eating disorder may also experience other mental or physical health issues at the same time as their eating disorder. Sometimes these can play a role in the eating disorder developing, or they may develop alongside, or because of, the eating disorder. Treatment for eating disorders should consider other health issues the person may have. This is why we need to know as much as possible about eating disorders – as they can affect anybody, at any time and can have serious consequences if not treated.

Getting help with an eating disorder

The first step is talking to someone you trust – it might be a member of your family, a friend, your youth worker, or your teacher, but most importantly it should be someone you feel comfortable with.

We know that this step takes bravery, and it’s completely normal to have worries about rejection, looking silly, or not being believed. But bottling up your feelings only fuels your eating disorder, and the sooner you can start getting treatment, the better your chance of fully recovering. The next step might be to visit your GP or your practice nurse about treatment for eating disorders.

Follow this link to a leaflet that can help you with arranging a GP appointment. a leaflet

The recovery process

Here is a really good quote about the recovery process from an eating disorder:

Recovering from an eating disorder is like riding a bike for the very first time. You can fall at any point, it seriously hurts and can actually knock your confidence. But by getting up and back on, you’ll show your ‘bicycle’ who’s boss and finally you’ll know how to ride like any ‘normal’ kid.

It’s important to remember that recovering from an eating disorder is hardly ever a straightforward process. As an eating disorder is often a means of coping with or feeling in control of difficult emotions or situations, the idea of life without it can be very frightening, and you may feel conflicted about recovery. Nobody expects you to smoothly walk along your path towards recovery without meeting a few obstacles or taking a wrong turn along the way. But remember there’s always someone there to talk to and help.

Everyone is different, so everybody copes differently. Talking and expressing your thoughts and feelings can be a really helpful way to cope. Whether this is with someone you trust or through writing or drawing in a diary, you’ll find your own method. 

Make sure you do find the courage to speak up when you’re finding things hard – you don’t have to feel like you have to pretend you are fine. Your support network is there to help you through.

Now lets watch a short film of young women’s story of coping with an easting disorder and her road to recovery.

Tips for recovery

  • Express your feelings and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes people find it easier to write their feelings down and show them to somebody rather than having to speak about them.
  • If you’re feeling low, find things you can do to calm yourself. Take a bath, phone a friend, paint a picture, listen to music, go for a walk, write a poem – try different things to see what works for you.
  • Write down positive qualities about yourself.
  • Learn something new that takes you away from your eating disorder.
  • Keep busy after meal times.
  • Try not to compare yourself to other friends in recovery. It can be helpful to use stories for inspiration, but you are an individual and will find your own path.
  • Think about your feelings when you’re feeling negative as well as when you’re feeling positive. Write a list of both – then when you’re feeling like you’re struggling read through those positive thoughts.

Support services

Helplines from The Beat Eating Disorders support group:

Helpline: 0808 801 0677

Studentline: 0808 801 0811

Youthline: 0808 801 0711

The Beats’ helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

Sometimes lines are busy. If you can’t get through immediately, please do try again or try our one-to-one web chat.

If you are in need of urgent help for yourself or someone else outside of helpline opening hours, please contact 999 or the Samaritans on 116 123 if you or someone else is in immediate danger.

If you need support outside of these hours, we encourage you to email helpline staff (details below).

Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These Helplines are free to call from all phones.

Email support

Adult email support is open to anyone over 18:

Studentline email support is open to all students:

Youthline email support is open to anyone under 18:

Parents, teachers or any concerned adults should call the adult helpline.


Confidentiality is fundamental to Beat’s services. However, there are some exceptional circumstances where they may pass on information, for example:

  • They suspect a child may be at risk from harm
  • A caller is at serious risk of harm, either from themselves or others
  • A caller treatens or abuses their staff

How contacting The Beat can help

If you call the helpline you will speak to a trained support worker experienced in listening and talking to people in a similar situation to you.

It can be difficult to reach out for help and talk about what you are feeling and going through, but the workers aim to provide a supportive, non-judgemental space.

Eating disorder helpline support workers are trained to:

  • Offer a supportive space for you to explore your feelings and thoughts around eating disorders.
  • Provide information about eating disorders.
  • Explore options for help with eating disorders and to enable you to come to your own decisions about what might be best for you. This might include NHS treatment, private therapy, support from charitable organisations, peer support or self-help.

Local Support Services to the Wallsend area

Richardson Eating Disorder Intensive Day Service

1st Floor Benfield House Walkergate Park Hospital , Benfield Road Newcastle Upon Tyne NE6 4PF 0191 287 6187

CAMHS Northumbria

Balliol Centre Chesters Avenue Longbenton NE12 8QP 0191 200 7435

Children and Young People’s Service – Newcastle & Gateshead

Benton House 136 Sandyford House Sandyford Newcastle NE2 1QE 0191 246 6913

Sharon Cox

33 Chirton West View North Shields NE29 0EP 0191 452 6567

Northumbria – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service

Albion Road Clinic Albion Road North Shields NE29 0HG 0191 219 6685

Child and Adolescent Mental Health service (CAMHS)

Overeaters Anonymous – Newcastle

Broadacre House Market Street Newcastle NE1 6HQ 07837 205976

Richardson Eating Disorder Service

Ward 31a Royal Victoria Infirmary Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 4LP 0191 282 5259

Children and Young People’s Service – Northumberland

Northgate Hospital Morpeth Northumberland NE61 3BP 01670 798 265

Some useful resources

Caring for someone with an eating disorder

Eating disorders don’t just affect the person involved but their family and friends too. Here is some information about different disorders, treatments and ways to support your friend or family member – download the leaflet

Please note: this leaflet has been designed for 11-18 year olds.

We hope this information has been useful…as we said at the start of the session:

The first step to getting help with any issues or problems you may be having is to talk to somebody you trust.

Take care

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