Eating Disorders - How Therapy can help

Eating disorders are a mental illness that can affect your entire being.

In therapy, I wouldn't ask to weigh you*. 

You are a unique person, who is the expert of your life, counselling would be looking at all of you, not just your eating. 


Therapy can help explore:

(A few examples listed)

  • what your symptoms mean to you, how they affect you and how they affect your relationships with other people.

  • the beliefs, values and feelings that you have about yourself

  • your relationships with other people and how they affect your eating behaviour. 

  • helping you to take what you have learned into everyday life. 

  • ask about your feelings, thoughts and behaviours.

  • listen to the concerns that your family or carers have about your eating behaviour.


There are many different eating disorders. 

Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and ‘Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders’.



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Anorexia Nervosa 

Anorexia Nervosa

You will try to keep your weight as low as possible if you have anorexia. You may think you are overweight even if others say you are dangerously thin. You may fear gaining weight and dismiss ideas to encourage you to eat more.


Behavioural symptoms/Physical signs
• Strict dieting. Such as counting the calories in food excessively, avoiding food you think is unsafe and eat only 'safe' foods. 
• Being secretive. 
• Over exercising and get upset if something stops you from exercising.
• Becoming socially isolated.
• Feel weak and have less muscle strength.
• Difficulty concentrating.
• Dizzy spells.
• Constipation, bloating and stomach pain.
• Grow soft, fine hair on your body and face. Hair falling out.
• Feeling cold. Swollen feet, hands or face. Low blood pressure.
• Setting high standards and being a perfectionist.
• Sleeping problems.
• Getting irritable and moody.
• In girls and women periods can stop, become irregular or do not start.
• Loss of interest in sex.

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Bulimia Nervosa 

Bulimia Nervosa

You will have an unhealthy eating cycle if you have bulimia. You will eat a lot of food and then do something to yourself to stop weight gain. 

The eating is called ‘binging’ and what you do after is called ‘purging’. You will usually have an average body weight. This may mean other people do not notice you are having these problems


Behavioural symptoms/Physical signs

• Eating large amounts of food In one sitting. This is known as bingeing.

• Feel guilty or ashamed after bingeing and purging.
• Spending a lot of time thinking about food.
• Not able to control your eating.
• Have a distorted view of your body shape or weight.
• Have mood swings.
• Secretive about your bingeing and purging.
• Feel anxious and tense.
• Can be associated with depression, low self-esteem, alcohol misuse and self-harm.
• Disappearing soon after eating.• Calluses on the back of your hand.
• Stomach pain, bloating and constipation.
• Gastric problems.
• Being tired and not having energy.
• In girls and women - periods stop or are not regular.
• Frequent weight changes.
• Hands and feet swelling.
• Damage to teeth.

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Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge eating disorder (BED)

You will eat a lot of food in a short period of time on a regular basis if you have BED. As with bulimia, you won’t feel in control of your eating. It is likely to cause you distress. You may feel disconnected and struggle to remember what you have eaten.


Behavioural symptoms/Physical signs
• Eat faster than normal during a binge.
• Eat when you’re not hungry and until you feel uncomfortably full.
• Eat alone or secretly.
• Have feelings of guilt, shame or disgust after binge eating.
• Low self-esteem and depression and anxiety.• Overweight for your age and height.• Tiredness and difficulty sleeping.
• Constipation and bloating.Other eating disorders and eating problems.

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Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)
OSFED means you have symptoms of an eating disorder. But you don't have all the typical symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or BED. You could have a mixture of symptoms from different eating disorders. This does not mean that your illness is less serious. It used to be known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).


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What causes eating disorders?

We do not know exactly why someone develops an eating disorder. Some people believe that eating disorders develop because of social pressures to be thin. Social pressures could be social media and fashion magazines.

 Others believe it is a way to feel in control.

Most specialists believe that eating disorders develop because of a mix of psychological, environmental and genetic factors. 

Psychological factors could be:

  • being vulnerable to depression and anxiety,

  • finding stress hard to handle,

  • worrying a lot about the future,

  • being a perfectionist,

  • controlling your emotions,

  • having obsessive or compulsive feelings, or

  • a fear of being fat.

Environmental factors could be:

  • pressure at school,

  • bullying,

  • abuse,

  • criticised for your body shape or eating habits,

  • having difficult family relationships, or

  • having a job or hobby where being thin is seen as ideal. Such as dancing or athletics.

Genetic factors could be:

  • changes in the brain or hormone levels, or

  • family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse.

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