Expert chat with Beat: Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders expert, Ed from BeatEd from Beat answers your questions about finding out if you have an eating disorder, getting help and how to support a friend who has an eating disorder. Read on to see what he has to say.

p>[Dan: I think I may be suffering from an Eating Disorder (ED), but I didn't realise until a couple of days ago when someone told me my ways around food and exercise are not okay. I don't feel I have a problem, but they do and I'm struggling with trying to get my head around it. How do I know if I have an ED?

Ed: Hi Dan, it can be really overwhelming to start thinking about having an Eating Disorder, especially if it was after someone told you they were worried. You might like to have a look at this page on the Beat site: Do I have an eating disorder? and also this page on The Mix. It's ok to be confused and it can be helpful to have someone to listen. Do you have anyone you trust that you feel you could talk to about how you are feeling?

Dan: It is a bit much. I've never taken much notice of the amount of exercise I do and the little amount I eat. And I don't have anyone that I'm comfortable to talk to.

Ed: It might feel like a big step, but it's always a good idea to talk to your GP if you think you might have an eating disorder.

Ed: But if that's a little too scary, try to remember that it is ok to just focus on the little steps. The Beat helpline can provide a space for you to talk without any agenda if you would like: Our adult helpline (18+) is 0845 634 1414 (email help@b-eat.co.uk) and our youthline (under 25) is 0845 634 7650 (email fyp@b-eat.co.uk). There's more info here.

Ed: We also have an online service called one-to-one where you can use an online messenger to talk to us.

Jo: Don't forget you can always post on our message boards too.

Clodagh: How can I support a friend with an Eating Disorder?

Ed: Thanks for your question. At Beat, we feel it is important that everyone affected by an eating disorder is supported throughout their experience so it is good to get ideas of how to help. Is it just a general question or do you have a particular friend in mind? If so how old are they?

Clodagh: I have a few friends who struggle with certain issues so I guess it is kind of a general question but for example my best friend, it's particularly hard for her and when she's here I can hear her being sick but I never know what to say. Should I bring it up? And when she brings it up I never know how to advise her

Ed: It sounds as though your best friend is finding things hard at the moment, and I realise how difficult it can be to know what to do.

Ed: It can be helpful to just provide a space where the person can talk about how they are feeling. For example, saying "I'm here for you if you would ever like to talk about stuff" can be a good way of opening the door. Sometimes asking how they feel can help give them the chance to talk and be really supportive.

Ed: With the times when you hear her being sick, it really depends on how you feel you would like to approach the situation. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could gently bring it up in conversation. Perhaps it would be best to have these conversations at times away from eating and when neither of you are feeling upset or angry. They can be hard conversations to have and so are better at times when people are feeling calm.

Ed: Try to remember though that it can be really hard for a person to talk about these issues so it may be that they don't want to say anything at that point but just the fact that they know that you are there can be supportive

Jo: Thanks Ed, we also have an article on The Mix about helping a friend with an eating disorder, which might help too. :)

Clodagh: Okay, thank you

Tanika: I have had issues relating to food and weight for quite a few years. I've been told that I have EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) but am "not quite at" the criteria for anorexia. Because of this, I haven't been able to access help because my BMI etc isn't at the level needed to access help. I've been trying to help myself and get myself back to a more stable weight but it's not going so well - things are getting worse. What else can I do?

Ed: Hi Tanika, it sounds really frustrating that you haven't been able to get some help, it sounds as though you are finding things hard at the moment.

Ed: They say for EDNOS that someone should be treated in the same way as the eating disorder that is most similar...so would this be anorexia for you?

Tanika: Yeah I guess so, bulimia as well, but I think anorexia is closest. I've kind of shoved the whole eating stuff aside because no one has been bothered and now it's at a point where I admit I'm not well. I feel forever dizzy and keep fainting along with other stuff. I'm pretty much now trapped in a cycle, I want things to improve but I can't do it myself because I end up freaking out.

Ed: It can be really hard to be coping with these difficulties on your own and there are some other options for support

Ed: I'm sorry to hear that you feel that no one has been bothered. I'd encourage you to talk to a doctor, even if this tricky given your past experience. Perhaps when you go to your GP surgery you could ask if there's a doctor that has experience of working with people with EDs? That way they may have a better understanding of how things are for you at the moment and may be able to provide some support. It's understandable to feel worried, but you wouldn't be wasting the doctors time. It's their job to support you.

Jake: Just to throw this in, there's a website called Doc Ready to prepare yourself for going to a GP.

Tanika: Thanks. I've previously been told that you need to be a certain BMI to get a referral anywhere, I'm not at that BMI but close, which leads to more unhealthy thought patterns. So am I right in thinking that because of that I can't get any help?

Ed: It's hard for to give a specific answer to that, but BMI isn't a diagnostic criteria although sometimes it can be used to assess people. You haven't chosen to have these difficulties and you deserve to be supported with how you are feeling. If you have been diagnosed with EDNOS, you should be able to access some support.

Ed: But, if you're finding it hard to get support, it may be worth talking to your local PALS (patient advice and Liason service) or the Patients association, they may be able to help.

Ed: Thanks everyone for your questions tonight, I hope that it has been useful. It's always good to talk :) You can always talk to us through Beat's helpline, by email, or one-to-one and we can give you info on our support services such as our message boards, online groups, and our recovery club.

Next Steps

  • Beat help people overcome eating disorders through helplines, online support and self-help groups. Call 0808 801 0677 or, if you're under 18, call their Youthline on 0808 801 0711.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Updated on 29-Sep-2015