An eating disorder is a serious mental illness characterised by an obsession around weight, shape, eating food, and/or body image. It is estimated that around 1.25 million are affected by an eating disorders, and around 11% of these are male. According to NHS figures, the number of males admitted to hospital has increased by 70% in the last 6 years, which is now the same rate of increase as in women.  Figures from Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that the biggest increase is in children between the ages of 10–19.


What Are The Main Eating Disorders?

Anorexia Nervosa – when you heavily restrict your food intake and/or exercise to keep your weight significantly low,

Bulimia – when you sometimes  lose control, and eat a large quantity of food, in a short space of time (binge ), then try to stop yourself gaining weight  by using laxatives, vomiting, restricting food intake, or exercise. The cycle of eating and compensatory behaviours often become very secretive leading to guilt and shame.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – when you regularly lose control of your eating, eat large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, followed by feeling very upset and guilty and/ or embarrassed. Many people with BED are overweight.

Other Specifies Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) – when your symptoms don’t exactly match the above, although this does not mean your issue is any less serious.


How Common Is It?

OFSED is the most common, then Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder. Anorexia is the least common.


What Are The Causes of Eating Disorders?

Through research we now know that there is no one single cause, although we know that a period of calorific restriction through stress or illness will increase the risk of an eating disorder. Genetics may also play a part, but this risk varies from person to person. One particular challenge we face is that our society remains a potentially triggering environment, with conflicting messages about perfection, ageing, and unachievable bodies, with diets and body image ever present.


Signs And Symptoms To Look For

  • Spending most of your time thinking about weight and shape
  • Eating very little / too much /dieting/restricting
  • Avoiding socialising
  • Deliberately taking laxatives or making yourself sick
  • Over exercising
  • Strict habits around food
  • Change in mood and personality
  • Low self esteem


  • Feeling cold, tired, or dizzy
  • Problems with digestion
  • Weight is too low/high for your age and height
  • For women, your period has stopped


How Can I Help Myself?

Recovery is possible with treatment and support. If you think you may have a problem, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about eating disorders, and tell your loved ones. Talk to your GP. You may need blood tests (fluid and electrolyte balance), or ECG tests. Medication may help you, but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines state that this should not be the sole source of your treatment.  Longer Term CBT, Psychotherapy, and Family Therapy can help. You can also call BEAT on 0808 801 0677 or Youth Helpline on 0808 801 0677. was founded by one of our specialist therapists 19 years ago, and gives details of local support groups you can attend.


What Can We Do To Help?

At Heswall Hills Counselling Centre we have therapists trained in working with eating disorders. If you would like support please get in touch