What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour.

The most common eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa – when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or exercising excessively.
  • Bulimia – when a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives (medication to help empty the bowels) to try to control their weight.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – when a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time.

Can anyone get an eating disorder?

Yes. Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

Bulimia is around 2 or 3 times more common than anorexia, and 90% of people with the condition are female. The condition usually develops around the age of 18 or 19.

Binge Eating can affect males and females and can happen in the later stages of life, between the ages of 30 or 40. It is estimated that around 5% of the population suffer from this.

What to do if you suspect someone might be suffering from an eating disorder?

If you are worried about yourself or a friend, you can speak to someone in Student Advice and Support Services or the University Counselling Service, who can offer advice and guidance.

Your GP will also be able to provide an assessment and advice and a method of treatment.

More information: