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Eating Disorders

An eating disorder can be described as a physical manifestation of emotional stress. They do not solely involve a person’s relationship with food but are more related to how an individual may use food as a method of coping with the emotional stress. Often someone with an eating disorder uses food as a way of taking back control as this is something they can have control over.

A national eating disorder charity called Beat estimate that 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. These figures seem to be increasing.

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  • Types of Eating Disorders

    Anorexia Nervosa

    This condition will often develop as a result of anxiety regarding how a person views their body. An individual with this will usually have a distorted view of themselves often seeing themselves as being much larger than they are. They may develop “rules” around what they feel they can and cannot eat, as well as things like when and where they’ll eat. Anorexia can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background.

    As well as limiting how much they eat, they may do lots of exercise, make themselves sick, or misuse laxatives to get rid of food they’ve eaten. They may check their weight often or avoid checking their weight at all.


    Bulimia (or bulimia nervosa) is a serious mental illness. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background. People with bulimia are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called bingeing), and then trying to compensate for that overeating by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, (called purging), fasting, or exercising excessively

    Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

    According to Beat, evidence suggests that this is the most common eating disorder.

    People with binge eating disorder eat large quantities of food over a short period of time (called binge eating). Unlike people with bulimia, they don’t usually follow this by getting rid of the food through, for example, vomiting, though sometimes they might fast between binges. BED is not about choosing to eat large portions, nor are people who suffer from it just “overindulging” – far from being enjoyable, binges are very distressing, often involving a much larger amount of food than someone would want to eat. People may find it difficult to stop during a binge even if they want to.

    Eating disorders can be related to other mental health issues and personal struggles too such as:

    • Self harm
    • Depression
    • Low self-esteem
    • Substance and alcohol misuse
  • Getting Help and Support

    The Beat charity has a helpline that is available anyone who may need support with eating disorders.

    Please see below for the Northern Ireland Helpline details:

    Help for Northern Ireland
    Helpline: 0808 801 0434


    You can also contact the Student Wellbeing Service to get support if you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder. 

    They run a drop-in service 11am-3pm Monday-Friday.

    You can also contact the Student Wellbeing Service if you are concerned about another student who you believe has an eating disorder.