Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex, life-threatening conditions from which people can and do get better. They can affect anyone young or old.

The term ‘eating disorder’ refers to a group of conditions characterised by:

  • Severe disturbances in eating
  • Emotional and psychological distress
  • Physical consequences

The disordered eating can take various forms, from fasting (self-starvation) to consuming vast amounts of food beyond what the body needs to satisfy its hunger (bingeing). Excessive exercising or self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives or diuretics are used to avoid weight gain (purging). All of these behaviors can have a serious effect on both physical and emotional health.

Although the term ‘eating disorder’ is applies to a wide range of disturbed eating disorders, only three conditions are listed in official classifications. The main eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia
  • Bulimia
  • Binge eating

Anorexia Nervosa

A person experiencing anorexia nervosa will make determined efforts to attain and maintain a body weight lower than the normal body weight for their age, sex and height. They will be preoccupied with thoughts about food and the need to lose weight. They may exercise excessively and go to dangerous extremes such as vomiting or taking laxatives and diuretics in order to control weight. Statistics show that anorexia most commonly occurs among adolescent girls and young women in their early 20s but recent studies suggest an increased incidence among males and among children.

Bulimia Nervosa

A person with bulimia binge eats and then tries to get rid of the food through dangerous behaviors. These can include fasting, excessive exercising, self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives or other medications. Most people with bulimia maintain weight within the normal range for their age, sex and height. It is therefore less obvious than anorexia and it can remain unnoticed for longer.

Binge Eating

Also referred to as compulsive overeating. A person with binge eating disorder may eat large amounts of food but does not try to get rid of it. They are therefore likely to put on considerable amounts of weight over time. They find themselves locked into a lonely cycle of dieting, bingeing and self-loathing.


If You Are Experiencing An Eating Disorder You May Share Many Of The Following Features

  • Do you constantly fear gaining weight?
  • Do you ever think that losing weight will make things better?
  • Do you feel guilty when you eat?
  • Are you always thinking about calories, what you’re going to eat next, when, where, with whom?
  • Do you feel that other people are better than you, that you’re not good enough as you are?
  • Are family and friends commenting on your weight or expressing concern about your weight?
  • Do you criticise yourself constantly?
  • Do you find it hard to talk about how you feel?
  • Do you ever feel lonely, depressed or suicidal?
  • Do you find socialising difficult and try to avoid being with other people especially when food is involved?
  • Do you have difficulty asking for help from others?
  • Do you feel cold all the time?
  • Have your periods stopped or become irregular?
  • Do you feel a compulsion to exercise more than everyone else?
  • Do you make yourself sick after eating?


Getting Help

Admitting there is a problem and deciding to get help is never easy for a person with an eating disorder. Getting better means giving up your way of coping and replacing it with healthier alternatives. This can see frightening and even impossible. FInding support and help from someone you trust us extremely important.


It is important to have a medical assessment and your GP may carry this out for you. He or she may:

  • Check out any medical condition and offer a firm diagnosis
  • Assess what kind of treatment is most suitable for you
  • Refer you on to a specialist service ie counsellor, psychologist, dietician or psychiatrist

Most people with an eating disorder can be seen as outpatients, but in severe cases, hospitalisation may be necessary. Treatment should address both the emotional and physical problems associated with an eating disorder.

Remember People can and do get better seek help as soon as possible.

Where To Get Help/Support


Bodywhys was established in 1985 in response to the lack of support available to people affected by eating disorders. They provide ongoing support which includes a helpline, free internet based support group and a network of support groups across the country. They also provide leaflets on aspects of all eating disorders, free of charge fromt the helpline.

LoCall Helpline: 1890 200 444

This helpline provides information to anybody affected by eating disorders be they a person with an eating disorder, parent, friend or teacher. Calls are treated confidentially.

Line operates at the following times:

  • Monday 7:30pm to 9:30pm
  • Tuesday 12:30pm to 2:30pm
  • Wednesday 7:30pm to 9:30pm
  • Thursday 10am to 12pm
  • Friday 12:30pm to 2:30pm

Online Support Group

These sessions usually take place from 7:30pm to 9pm on Monday and Wednesday, however some sessions take place from 6pm to 7:30pm. The days of these sessions vary from month to month so it is advisable to log on and check. These meetings are open to people 16 years and older. To register and for more information, go to



Address: Derry Well Woman Centre, Queen st, Derry

Phone: 048 71 360777 (from R. of Ireland) or 028 71 360 777 (from NI)

Support Group

The group meet fortnightly on Wednesday at 7:30pm. The support group is facilitated by 2 women, 1 who is a trained counsellor who specialised in eating disorders. This support is open to girls and women only.


Derry Well Woman offer counselling for eating disorders. For an appointment or more information call the above number. Counsellors are specially trained to work with women experiencing an eating disorder.