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cooking big or complicated meals for other
people, but eating little or none of the food
only eating certain low-calorie foods in your
presence, such as lettuce or celery
feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in
public places, such as at a restaurant
the use of "pro-anorexia" websites
It can be difficult to know what to do if you're
concerned about a friend or family member. It's not
unusual for someone with an eating disorder to be
secretive and defensive about their eating and their
weight, and they may deny being unwell.
You can also talk in confidence to an adviser
from the eating disorders charity Beat by calling
their adult helpline in the UK on 0808 801 0677.
They also have a designated youth helpline on 0808
801 0711. Both helplines are open every day of the
year from 4pm to 10pm.
Who's affected by eating
A 2015 report commissioned by Beat estimates
more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected
by an eating disorder. Eating disorders tend to be
more common in certain age groups, but they can
affect people of any age.
Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men
will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The
condition usually develops around the age of 16 or
Bulimia is around two to three times more
common than anorexia nervosa, and 90% of people
with the condition are female. It usually develops
around the age of 18 or 19.
Binge eating affects males and females
equally and usually appears later in life, between
the ages of 30 and 40. As it's difficult to precisely
define binge eating, it's not clear how widespread
it is, but it's estimated to affect around 5% of the
adult population.
Treating eating disorders
If an eating disorder isn't treated, it can have a
negative impact on someone's job or schoolwork,
and can disrupt relationships with family members
and friends. The physical effects of an eating
disorder can sometimes be fatal.
Treatment for eating disorders is available,
although recovery can take a long time. It's
important that the person affected wants to get
better, and the support of family and friends is
Treatment usually involves monitoring a
person's physical health while helping them deal
with the underlying psychological causes. This may
using self-help manuals and books, possibly
under guidance from a therapist or another
healthcare professional
cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) therapy
that focuses on changing how a person thinks
about a situation, which in turn will affect how
they act
interpersonal psychotherapy a talking therapy
that focuses on relationship-based issues
dietary counselling a talking therapy to help a
person maintain a healthy diet
psychodynamic therapy or cognitive analytic
therapy (CAT) therapy that focuses on how
a person's personality and life experiences
influence their current thoughts, feelings,
relationships and behaviour
family therapy therapy involving the family
discussing how the eating disorder has affected
them and their relationships
medication for example, a type of
antidepressant called selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used to treat
bulimia nervosa or binge eating
There's a range of other healthcare services that
can help, such as support and self-help groups, and
personal and telephone counselling services like:
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