Eating disorders

What causes eating disorders?Young women walking in park

The causes are not yet fully understood. Some parents may feel responsible for causing the illness but studies have shown that the causes are complex and varied: genetic, physiological, psychological, social/cultural and environmental stressors have been identified as causative and contributory factors.

Anorexia nervosa
Also known as anorexia, this is a serious eating disorder where you are worried about your weight, you want to lose weight and you eat less and less food.

Young people with bulimia are very concerned about their weight and because they want to control their weight they are trapped in a cycle of binge eating and then making themselves sick or taking laxatives to get rid of the food.


What are the symptoms?


Symptoms of anorexia include losing a lot of weight quickly, eating less and less food, thinking about the calorie content of food, feeling panicky about eating food with other people or having a big meal. You may feel moody or irritable because of the lack of food and girls’ periods may stop, while boys stop having erections. You may become obsessed with everyone else’s body size and compare yourself to them. You may feel cold a lot of the time and grow a downy hair on your body.


Symptoms of bulimia include binge eating, vomiting or taking laxatives, excessive exercise, sore throat, dehydration, bad teeth, heart problems, muscle spasms, some weight loss, change in periods (for girls), isolating yourself and feeling helpless.


How is it treated?


A specialist will talk to you about how you are feeling to see if they can help. It is likely that you would see the specialist on a regular basis and in most cases you will do this as an out-patient. If your weight was dangerously low and it posed a real problem to your health then it is likely you would be admitted to stay in hospital for you to be treated.

Compulsory treatment – If you are seriously ill and you cannot make decisions for yourself or you need to be protected from harm, then doctors would carry out compulsory treatment.



–    Talking to a specialist

–    Psychological treatment – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Interpersonal therapy, Antidepressants

–    Hospital treatment

How to get help

If you are concerned about an eating disorder, you can ask your GP to make a referral. We also accept self-referrals directly to CAMHS. If you are a parent or young person, you can call the service between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday on 020 8354 8160 and ask to speak to the Duty Eating Disorders clinician who will discuss your concerns with you. 

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