Guide to eating problems like anorexia and bulimia

  • 20 February 2012
Children eating school dinners Image copyright Getty Images

Many children have problems with eating at some time in their lives.

These problems can range from not liking certain foods (which happens to most people), to serious eating problems which may come from medical or emotional troubles.

How can eating problems start?

Scientists think eating problems can start in a lot of ways. Some think that you are born with them.

Others believe they're learned from people around you and people who are famous, for example, very thin fashion models.

Also people who don't feel in control of their lives may turn to eating, as it's one thing they do have power over.

Eating problems can also start because of other issues, such as unhappiness at home or school, someone you know dying, or a mixture of these and other things.

But thankfully, a lot of help is available from doctors and from charities.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a medical condition and its proper name is anorexia nervosa.

People with anorexia nervosa avoid eating and lose a lot of weight. They often feel fat, even when they are very thin.

They may use other ways of staying thin, such as taking tablets which make them go to the toilet more often, or by doing too much exercise.

They can become very weak and without special help, some people with anorexia can even die.

What is bulimia?

Bulimia is also a medical condition and its proper name is bulimia nervosa.

People with bulimia eat lots of food (called binge eating) and then make themselves sick to get rid of what they've eaten.

People with bulimia may not look underweight and so can find it easy to hide their eating problems.

Binge eating and vomiting can eventually do serious damage to the teeth, heart, kidneys and muscles.

Where can you go for help?

You can get help from talking to friends and family or a trained helper, called a counsellor.

You can find counsellors by calling ChildLine for free on 0800 1111.

Also you can talk to Beat, a charity helping people with eating disorders, on their youth line 0845 634 7650.