About eating problems

Food plays an important part in our lives, and most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Our relationship with food often changes – sometimes we may try to eat more healthily, have cravings, eat too much or lose our appetite. We may find it hard to eat if we’re feeling stressed, or eat comfort food if we feel unhappy. Changing your eating habits every now and again like this is normal, and doesn’t need to worry you.

However, if you aren’t eating a regular balanced diet over a longer period of time, it could start to become a problem for you. Having an eating problem can be very hard to cope with but it’s important to understand that eating problems aren’t just about food. They can be about difficult things in your life and painful feelings, which you may be finding hard to express, face or resolve. Focusing on food can be a way of disguising these problems, even from yourself.

What's the difference between an eating problem and an eating disorder?

An eating problem is any kind of relationship with food that you are finding difficult.
An eating problem may be considered to be an eating disorder if your behaviour meets the medical criteria for a diagnosis. A doctor will look at your eating patterns to make a diagnosis. They may also measure your weight or body mass index (BMI), or take blood tests.

I had issues with my eating when my parents split up. It was the only part of my life I felt like I could control, and I craved that control as everything else spiralled.

Because eating problems can noticeably affect your body, you may feel that people around you focus mainly on your actions, or on the physical impact they have. But you may feel that your problem is more complicated than the people around you realise.

To read the full factsheet, including information on symptoms, causes, self-help treatment & support and more, please click here. Please note, this will take you to the National Mind website.