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Eating disorders

An eating disorder is when somebody has an unhealthy attitude towards food, which affects their day to day life. It involves either eating too much or too little or becoming obsessive about weight and body shape.

Both men and women can suffer from eating disorders, but they most commonly affect young women aged 13 to 17 years old.

  • Anorexia nervosa – when you try to keep your weight as low as possible by not eating enough food, exercising too much, or both.
  • Bulimia – when you sometimes lose control and eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binging) and are then deliberately sick, use laxatives (medication to help you poo), restrict what you eat, or do too much exercise to try to stop yourself gaining weight.
  • Binge eating disorder (BED) – when you regularly lose control of your eating, eat large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and are then often upset or guilty.
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) – when your symptoms don’t exactly match those of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, but it doesn’t mean it’s a less serious illness.

How they might feel

Someone who has an eating disorder may:

  • Excessively worry about their weight and body shape.
  • Avoid socialising when they think food will be involved.
  • Feel cold, tired or dizzy.
  • Feel unwell from problems with their digestion.
  • Feel obsessed about exercising.
  • Feel anxious and worried.
  • Have mood swings or changes in their mood.
  • May experiences changes to their menstrual cycle.

Things you might observe

If some has an eating disorder you may notice some of the following symptoms or behaviour:

  • Their weight may be very high or very low for someone of their age and height.
  • They may eat very little food.
  • They deliberately make themselves sick or take laxatives after they eat.
  • They exercise excessively or obsessively.
  • They have very strict habits or routines around food.
  • They have changes in their mood.
  • They show dramatic weight loss.
  • They lie about how much and when they’ve eaten, or how much they weigh.
  • They eat a lot of food very fast.
  • They go to the bathroom a lot after eating.
  • They seem to avoid eating with others.
  • They cut their food into small pieces or eat very slowly.
  • They wear loose or baggy clothes to hide their weight loss.

It’s important to remember that even if symptoms don’t exactly match those for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, someone may still have an eating disorder.

In this video, Megan Blissett (Operations Manager for Wellbeing and Counselling) highlights common signs and symptoms of eating disorders and discusses ways in which tutors can support students with this issue.

If a student requires support but is not at immediate risk:

  • If you have noticed signs and symptoms that have caused you concern, ask to speak to the student in a confidential space and explain your reasons for concern and discuss whether the student feels they need any support. “I’ve noticed you’ve lost a lot of weight recently and wanted to check if everything is OK?”
  • If the student discloses to you, they have an eating disorder and are not receiving support encourage them to speak to their GP about this. You could offer to support them to arrange an appointment if they need this.
  • Identify what practical support could be considered to support the student.
  • If the student is not registered with a GP encourage them to do this as soon as possible. Visit the Wellbeing webpages for information on local GPs and how to register. If they are, recommend that the student makes an appointment.
  • If the student requires a referral for specific issues for example they are struggling with money worries, have an accommodation issue or their issues are complex then consider the routes in the ‘How to Refer’ section, seek the student’s consent to refer and explain that they can also self-refer to services.
  • Talk to the student about a referral to the Wellbeing team and explain the support they can offer. Seek to obtain their consent to a referral.
  • Make sure the student is aware of how to contact the Wellbeing team and what they should do if at any point they feel they cannot keep themselves safe.
  • Don’t judge or minimise the student’s issue.
  • Don’t assume the student is not suffering from an eating disorder based on their weight for example: they are not skinny enough to be anorexic.
  • Don’t pressure the student to accept specialist help if they are not ready, provide them with the information to consider the options of support and decide in their own time.
  • Don’t promise confidentiality.
  • Don’t feel you have to provide specialist support to the student, if they are not already getting help from specialist services they will require a referral.

Refer a student if:

  • You feel you can no longer provide practical advice or support to the student.
  • You feel the student needs more specialist support.
  • You feel the student is at immediate risk to themselves or others.

If you believe the student is an imminent risk to themselves or others, ideally do not let them leave your office or teaching room. Contact the Catalyst Helpdesk on 01695 650800 (extension 7800) and ask them to put you through to the Duty Wellbeing Adviser in Student Services. If it is out of hours, contact Campus Support on extension 01695 584227 (extension 4227).

If a student is an immediate risk to themselves, you do not need the consent of the student to contact Student Services.

If a student is not at immediate risk to themselves but requires specialist support, you must obtain their consent to refer them to any of the following services as appropriate:

Team NameSupport OfferedContact Details
Academic RegistryProvide advice on and processing of course changes: transferring course/university, repeating a year, module changes, changing mode of study, appeals.[email protected]

01695 584803
Accommodation teamProvide advice/guidance about accommodation both on and off campus, including hall fee queries.[email protected]

01695 650800
Campus LifeEnsure that students live in a safe/secure environment on campus. Promote and organise events to help students make the most of their time here and administrate the Disciplinary Regulations.[email protected]

01695 657570
Campus SupportProvides 24/7 support and security on campus.01695 584227
CareersProvide advice and support with career planning, job hunting, CV writing, volunteering and maximising work experience[email protected]

01695 650800
ChaplaincyProvides both staff and students of all faiths and none with pastoral support. Activities/events focus on friendship, community, support and faith.[email protected]

01695 650800
Counselling (assessed through the Wellbeing team)Referral always via the Wellbeing team. Also provide group workshops and 1:1 therapeutic support to help students find solutions to issues they are facing.[email protected]

01695 650988
Disability and InclusionProvide advice and support for students with physical/sensory/mental health, autism spectrum disorders or other additional needs. Also provide advice and guidance on reasonable adjustments and support available. Support for specific learning needs – including dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD can be found via the Library and Learning Services SpLD team.[email protected]

01695 657568

[email protected]

01695 650800

Law clinicProvide a free clinic to all staff and students run by Year 3 law students who can advise on legal questions or difficulties such as support with housing contract and employment law for example.Law Clinic
Money AdviceProvide advice on all money-related matters including student funding, budgeting, and the Student Support Fund.[email protected]

01695 650800
Students’ UnionProvides representation for students and promotes and hosts activities/events. Provides advice and support to students on various issues including academic, housing, and money.[email protected]

01695 657327
Student Support TeamTargeted support for Care Experienced and Estranged Students (CEES). Advice and support for all students who are thinking of leaving or at risk of withdrawing or being withdrawn.
[email protected]

01695 650800
Wellbeing teamFirst contact for mental health concerns. Practical advice, support and signposting for any issue impacting on a student’s wellbeing.[email protected]

01695 650988

Students can self-refer to all of the above services and arrange appointments via the Catalyst Helpdesk.

Useful links and information

For more information about eating problems follow the links below:



Information about NHS treatment for anorexia

Information about NHS treatment for bulimia

Information about treatment for binge eating disorder

Support and self-help resources for students
Staff training at Edge Hill University
Back to the mental health toolkit homepage