Eating disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can have a significant impact on all aspects of a person’s life – physical, emotional, and social. The earlier an eating disorder is identified, and appropriate support and treatment is given, the greater the opportunity for recovery.

Some facts about eating disorders in the UK

  • 2 million adults, in England alone, are diagnosed with an eating disorder but only 11,000 receive NHS care(1)
  • There are currently only 455 inpatient beds for adults with eating disorders(2)
  • There are less than 100 consultants specialising in eating disorders in the UK (NHS and private sector cumulatively)(3)
  • There were almost 23,000 eating disorder related hospital admissions across all age ranges between January and October 2021 (an increase of 25% on the same period in 2020)(4)
  • Waiting lists have trebled since the Covid-19 pandemic started(5)
  • A majority of cases experience their first serious episodes of either low weight, or regular binge eating when they are under 18 years of age(6)
  • Total cost of eating disorders in 2020, including health care, personal finance, carers costs, social costs and productivity costs = £9.4 billion(7)
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About eating disorders

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental illnesses that can affect people of all ages, identities and backgrounds. With the right help, recovery is possible.

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Associated behaviours

Compulsive exercising, laxative abuse and self-harm can often be present alongside an eating disorder. We are here to listen to your concerns and offer practical guidance on seeking the appropriate professional help.

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Risk factors

Each person’s experience of an eating disorder can vary significantly, and the causes are usually a mix of social, biological, and physical factors. However, there are some known factors that increase the risk of an eating disorder.

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Impact of eating disorders

Whether you’re affected by an eating disorder personally, or are caring for someone else, eating disorders affect physical, mental, and social health as a whole.

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Getting help

If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, seeking professional help as soon as possible is vital. Talking to your GP is the first step in the process of recovery.

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Other organisations

From services that provide mental health crisis support to regional eating disorder organisations across the UK, there are many organisations that can help both you and your loved ones.

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There are many terms and acronyms that are often associated with eating disorders. Check our glossary for an explanation of the most common terms.


(1,2,4,5) NHS Digital Data, 2021/22.

(3) Royal College of Psychiatrists, Census 2021.

(6) When do eating disorders start? Beat, 2021.

(7) The cost of eating disorders in the UK, Hearts Minds Genes, 2021.

Are you worried that you, or a loved one may have an eating disorder? Our Peer Support Team have lived experiences of eating disorders and recovery.

To talk to someone who understands, book a 1:1 support call, we’re here to help.

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