Support for young men with eating disorders
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can affect young people, children and adults of all ages, genders and ethnicities. They most commonly develop in adolescence but can also occur in children as young as 7 and in older adults. In the UK alone there is thought to be around 725,000 people struggling with eating disorders.
Everyone has different eating habits. Some days you may eat more than others or go through phases of eating more healthily but this doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder. An eating disorder is an illness not a diet.
When people have an eating disorder this begins to dominate their whole life, and impacts on their school/ work/ social and family life. Often people who develop an eating problem are struggling with difficult feelings or stressful events in their lives and the eating disorder can begin as a way of coping with these or regaining a sense of control. Thoughts about food, calories and body weight can take over, and are often accompanied by feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt and shame. People can start to become isolated from friends and stop enjoying things they used to do, they might avoid eating in front of people or become panicky around food, and they may make themselves sick or want to exercise immediately after eating. They may also experience low self-esteem and self- worth, negative thoughts, low mood, self -harm and difficulty coping with life.
People can be affected by one or more type of eating disorder or find their symptoms changing 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.
Types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia /Anorexia Nervosa is when someone tries to loose/keep their weight as low as possible by restricting the amount of food they eat and exercise excessively.
- Bulimia is when someone loses control and has episodes of eating a lot of food in a short period of time (binge eating) and then force themselves to be sick, use laxatives, restrict what they eat or exercise excessively to try and not gain weight.
- A Binge Eating Disorder is when someone regularly loses control of what their eating. This involves eating large portions/ eating until feeling uncomfortably full then feeling upset or guilty afterwards.
- EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) is when someone has symptoms of an eating disorder but they don’t exactly match the criteria of any of the above. This doesn’t mean their illness is any less serious though.
- ARFID (Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder). It is more common among children with ASC and is characterised by:
- Highly restricted diet; avoidance of certain foods based e.g. upon their colour or texture
- High anxiety about food and eating accompanied by aversive thoughts –such as fear of choking or being sick
- Lack of interest in food
- Loss of weight, failure to thrive and experiencing range of physical consequences of not eating adequate diet.
What causes eating problems?
There is no one single reason why someone develops an eating disorder. A whole range of factors combine, including genetic, psychological, environmental and social influences and interpersonal and relationship difficulties that increase the likelihood that someone develops an eating disorder.