Anyone can have an eating disorder regardless of their age, sex, ethnicity, or background.
Eating disorders are not all about the food itself. The way the person treats food may make them feel more able to cope, or feel more in control, but they might not be aware of the purpose this behaviour is serving.
There is no one cause of an eating disorder. Young people who develop eating difficulties and disorders often tell us that eating or not eating can be a way of coping with feelings of sadness, worry and stress.
An eating disorder can quicky take over a person’s life and make them very unwell. Eating disorders can involve eating too much or far too little.
There are many different types of eating disorders, with bulimia and anorexia nervosa being the most common, and all of them are serious. All eating disorders are treatable and a full recovery is possible. Getting help and advice as soon as possible improves the chances of a full recovery.
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Video description: Practical tips for families caring for a child with an eating disorder
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Video description: The treatment approach for an eating disorder
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Video description: What is an eating disorder?
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Video description: how to support a young person with an eating difficulty
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It is common for people with eating difficulties to not see that there is a real problem. You may not understand why others are concerned or you might disagree that there is a problem altogether. This may make you feel angry and frustrated.
Calmly support them to open up about how they are feeling and what they are struggling with. The quicker they can get help for your difficulties, the better the outcome.
Take things one day at a time, each meal at a time. If they have a difficult meal or snack, start the next one afresh.
Find things that will motivate them to maintain healthy eating when things are hard; such as being able to go out with friends, do sports and activities and achieve goals that they have set.
Have a look at these helpful, downloadable workbooks and self-help materials:
If you live in Hampshire and you are concerned that your child may have an eating disorder and you’d like help or advice, please contact the Hampshire CAMHS Specialist Eating Disorder Team on 0300 304 0062 Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm or if you live in Dorset you can call Young People’s Eating Disorder Service (YPEDS) on 01202 492415.
For those living on the Isle of Wight you can call IOW CAMHS on 01983 523602 between Monday-Friday 8:30am-5pm (answerphone out of hours).
Many young people go through phases of dieting and not eating enough. Sometimes this can tip into developing an eating disorder. Here’s a guide to help you know how best to support your young person if they are experiencing eating difficulties. This is not an exhaustive list; young people may experience symptoms which may not be included on this guide:
Coping / needs support; These are experiences that most young people will have from time to time
What you might see or what a young person might report
Things to try, support and next steps
If someone is developing an eating disorder, often changes in behaviour are noticeable before changes to physical appearance. Signs include:
See your GP (ask for physical health observations to be done- height, weight, blood pressure, pulse)
Inform your child’s school to share concerns and ask if they have noticed any other concerns
Needs help; These are challenges that some young people experience and may need some support with
Dieting/ restricting food intake
Exercising/ increased activity
Purging (self-induced vomiting)
Eating excessive amounts/ bingeing/ constantly seeking food; gaining weight
Behavioural signs can include:
YP section- eating difficulties, anxiety, depression (see downloads)
Podcasts and Videos Section on www.hampshirecamhs.nhs.uk
How to support a young person with an eating difficulty here: https://youtu.be/-ApfAzKOy60
How to support a young person with anxiety: https://youtu.be/LMFQHABnH1M
How to support a young person with depression/ in crisis/ who engages in self-harm: https://youtu.be/qBAZQVjSmQU
Other Useful resources:
Needs Specialist Treatment or a Crisis Response; These are difficulties that cause a significant impact and a young person may need specialist support.
What you might see, or what a young person might report
Emergency symptoms – seek immediate medical advice