Do I have an eating disorder?

Worried you have an eating disorder? Not sure how you get one, or what it means? The Mix is here to help.

A young person is sitting reading information to try and find out about eating disorders

If you’re reading this page you’re probably a bit worried about your relationship with food. You’ve come to the right place. We talked to psychotherapist Andrea Scherzer about eating disorders and how to spot the warning signs.

Do I have an eating disorder?

Here are some questions about eating disorder symptoms to ask yourself to examine how you feel about life and food:

  • How do you feel in yourself at the moment? Are you upset? Feeling stressed or worried?
  • Have your eating habits changed recently?
  • Has your thinking around food changed?
  • Have you become preoccupied with food and counting calories?
  • Are you avoiding certain situations that involve food, like going out for meals with friends?
  • Have you started skipping meals, bingeing on food or throwing up after eating?

If you answered ‘yes’ to a lot of these questions it doesn’t automatically mean you have an eating disorder so don’t panic. But it may be a sign you need to explore what’s happening.

“People can flirt with disordered eating,” says Andrea. “Often they’ll get bored of it, and it doesn’t push them over the edge. But when food starts interfering with your life and becomes the sole focus of your thinking then it’s worth seeking help.”

What is an eating disorder?

“An eating disorder is a psychological problem with physiological symptoms,” says Andrea.

Eating disorders almost always stem from you not being happy or feeling like your life is out of control. Maybe something’s going on at home or you’re feeling really stressed about exams or grieving for someone who’s died. What’s important to remember about eating disorders is that they’re often linked to what is going through the mind, although we may put the focus on our body.

“Controlling your body can sometimes feel like the only thing you have control over. It’s simplistic, but it’s true,” says Andrea.

Do I need help?

You don’t have to be mega thin to have an eating disorder. You could be overweight, a ‘healthy’ weight or even have a celebrity-type body of perfection. The truth is, if you’ve become obsessive with what you weigh – thinking if you get to a certain weight, or if your thighs or chest look a particular way then everything will be better, and it’s controlling your life – then you likely have disordered eating and should seek help.

What should I do if I think I have an eating disorder?

The best thing to do is talk to someone you trust about what’s going on. Realising you need help – and being open to getting it – is the important first step. Try talking to someone you trust about what’s going on such as a close friend or family member. We know this may be daunting but you deserve help and support for what you’re going through.

“People often feel ashamed that they’ve lost control,” says Andrea. “But there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re going through a tough time and you just need to talk to someone.” If you decide you need treatment for your disordered eating you need to tell your GP. We know this can be daunting but your GP is the gateway to all the possible available treatment options. You can bypass them and seek help and treatment privately but this is usually quite expensive.

Can I cure myself of an eating disorder?

“The only way help works is if the person gets to a point in their own behaviour that’s so problematic and their lives are so messy [that] they don’t want to live like that anymore,” says Andrea.

If you’ve come to this point on your own there are things you can try to improve your thinking around food. We really recommend you check out the Beat website, or ring their helpline on 0845 634 7650.

It’s difficult to ‘cure’ disordered eating by yourself but Andrea recommends that if you’ve cut out a food group or are regularly missing a meal you should start by trying to set yourself obtainable goals.

For instance, try, ‘I’m going to eat carbs three times a week’ or ‘I’m going to make sure I eat three meals a day, five days a week’. If you’re able to achieve these goals you’ll hopefully realise that everything is still ok.

However, it’s likely you’ll need support alongside this, so at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, don’t be afraid to talk to someone or go to your GP.

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.
  • Beat have loads of information sheets and resources on eating disorders.
  • Men get eating disorders too (MGEDT) run discussion boards for men with eating disorders where you can get peer support.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


Updated on 05-Jul-2016

Photo by Shutterstock.