Eating Disorders


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This page is to support anyone who is affected by an eating disorder, or anyone caring for someone with an eating disorder. 


What are Eating Disorders?


Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses affecting people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. People with eating disorders use disordered eating behaviour as a way to cope with difficult situations or feelings. This behaviour can include limiting the amount of food eaten, eating very large quantities of food at once, getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy means (e.g. making themselves sick, misusing laxatives, fasting, or excessive exercise), or a combination of these behaviours.


There is hope – full recovery is entirely possible with the right support


It’s important to remember that eating disorders are not all about food itself, but about feelings. The way the person treats food may make them feel more able to cope, or may make them feel in control, though they might not be aware of the purpose this behaviour is serving. An eating disorder is never the fault of the person experiencing it, and anyone who has an eating disorder deserves fast, compassionate support to help them get better.


What Causes Eating Disorders?


Eating disorders are complex – there is no single reason why someone develops an eating disorder. A whole range of different factors, including someone’s genetics, biology, psychology and surroundings, can combine to make it more likely any one person develops the condition.

We don’t yet know everything about what causes an eating disorder, or what treatments will work for everyone, but we do know there are effective treatments available. There is world-class research going on, much of it in the UK and involving work across the globe. The latest research is showing us that eating disorders have much more to do with biology than was previously thought.


Types of Eating Disorder include:


How to Get Help

The first port of call when looking for help is your GP. It is an incredibly brave thing to speak out and ask for support, and if it’s something you’re anxious about, you can speak to local charity helplines (listed below) about your worries. You could also talk to a friend, a family member, or someone at school, university or work. You could ask them to visit the GP with you if you are worried about going on your own. You can read more about telling someone you have an eating disorder here.

Your GP (and sometimes other members of the primary care team, like your practice nurse) will play an important part in this first step of identifying your eating disorder. If your GP suspects you have an eating disorder, they should refer you immediately for further assessment or treatment by a specialist eating disorder service. The NICE guidelines for eating disorders, which are based on the best available evidence and which your doctor should take into account while making decisions about your treatment, is very clear that immediate referral is the best course of action. Beat’s First Steps leaflet, which you can download, will give you guidance on getting a referral.

You can also get more information from the Northern Ireland Regional Care Pathway for the Treatment of Eating Disorders.


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Other Helpful Resources


Consider if you'd like to browse privately: These resources often link to external Websites like YouTube, or Amazon for example, which save certain information about your browsing history. If you'd like to check out these resources but you'd like to keep your browsing private or are concerned for your safety, please consider using incognito mode - this will allow you to view all content without the risk of exposing your browsing history. 




  • BEAT - POD - Peer Support and Online Development for Carers -  Beat's online carer community designed to provide people supporting someone with an eating disorder with a space to learn, share experiences and find support. (Web Page)
  • BEAT - Training for Parents and Carers (Web Page)
  • Eating Disorder Association NI - Binge Eating, Breaking the Cycle, A self-help guide towards recovery. (PDF Download)
  • Eating Disorder Association NI - Approaching Someone with an eating disorder, If you are thinking of approaching a person about an eating disorder, the most important step you can take to support that person is to accept them as they are now (PDF Download)
  • Eating Disorders: We hope that this booklet will help parents to understand what an eating disorder is, how it develops and is maintained in an individual, and how a parent can support their child in moving towards recovery.  (PDF Download)
  • NAADAC - Binge Eating Workbook is designed to provide people with binge eating disorder helpful tools they can use to gain control of their eating behaviour. (PDF Download)
  • Building Body Acceptance - What Keeps Body Dysmorphic Disorder Going? A workbook that will help you consider how those past experiences may be affecting you in the present, and explore what is keeping your BDD going now. (PDF Download)
  • More coming soon... Have you any suggestions? If so, let us know by Joining the Conversation at the bottom of this page!









Find Help Near You - Eating Disorders


There are support agencies in Northern Ireland who specialise in providing support to people impacted by an eating disorder, these are listed below. Remember that a number of services can help those with an eating disorders too, such as counselling or therapy for example. Please remember that you are not alone and that there is help available. 

We currently do not accept requests for ongoing support from us.
Instead, please browse or search our directory to find the most appropriate service for your needs to ensure you
get the best support possible.


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