What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders affect a wide range of people from children through to adults and can occur when someone is having difficulty coping with their personal problems and other issues. The main eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.  

In many cases, those with an eating disorder my feel that they can stay in control of their lives by controlling their diet and food, but in reality the eating disorder is controlling them.


Some of the emotions that people with eating disorders often struggle with are sadness, guilt, loss, anger or fear. These may be a result of events that have taken place in their lives and could include low self-esteem or lack of confidence through to sexual or emotional abuse and even bereavement.  They may have wanted to harm yourself or misuse alcohol or drugs. Remember, there is help available for your eating disorder. If you feel like you would like help, the first step is to approach your GP.

First signs of an eating disorder

One of the first signs of an eating disorder could be becoming withdrawn, being less involved with your family and friends, being anxious or emotionally volatile and in particular feeling this way around mealtimes and food.

Eating disorders can be closely linked to other difficulties like:

  • compulsive exercise
  • poor body image
  • obsessive compulsive disorders and depression
  • both your mental and physical wellbeing are affected by your eating disorder, and those who care for you are also stressed and upset by what they see you doing. 

If the issue isn’t addressed at an early stage it can lead to an all-consuming problem around food and diet, leaving the person emotionally drained, isolated and vulnerable.

There are variations on typical eating disorder signs and the condition is complex. Personally, if you are concerned about anything, a good starting point is to discuss any symptoms or issues with your GP.

If you recognise that you have an eating disorder problem, it’s really important to talk to someone who can help you. Finding help at an early stage for your eating disorder is your first step to recovery.

The Haldon Eating Disorder Service in Exeter is a centre of excellence and provides specialist inpatient treatment (residential) for people with severe eating disorders who have been referred by their local Specialist Eating Disorders Community Team.