You may come across various acronyms or unfamiliar terms in relation to eating disorders. This glossary should help to explain some of the terms that you may find throughout our website and in information about eating disorders.


Amenorrhea – the absence of menstrual periods.  This can be one of the signs of an eating disorder.

BMI (body mass index)

BMI (body mass index) – a widely-used measure in population health, BMI was developed in the early 19th century and is a simple calculation using your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.  The healthy weight range is 18.5 – 24.9.  BMI has limitations; it doesn’t consider factors such as body composition, age, gender or ethnicity.  It should form part of a range of physical and psychological checks by GPs and healthcare professionals, and should never be used as the sole measure to determine whether to offer treatment for an eating disorder.

CYPMHS (Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services)

CYPMHS (Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services) – formerly, and often still known as  CAMHS.  NHS-funded services that work with children and young people that have difficulties with their mental health or wellbeing. Local areas have a number of different support services available and are made up of teams of different professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, nurses and therapists.

Read more about CYPHMS

CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)

CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) – a talking therapy that can help you manage emotional or mental health difficulties by changing negative thoughts and behaviours and finding practical solutions to improve how you feel.  CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focussing on issues from your past.

Individual or group eating disorder-focused CBT (CBT-ED) is often recommended as part of a psychological treatment plan for different types of eating disorder, at any age.  It can be accessed via the NHS or privately.

Read more about CBT.


Co-morbidities – sometimes called co-occurring conditions; when someone has two or more physical or mental health problems.  Multiple eating disorders can occur together (e.g. anorexia and bulimia), or can be accompanied by other psychological illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) or self-harm.  Eating disorders can also co-occur in those with conditions such as diabetes or autism.


Counselling – a talking therapy that involves a trained therapist listening to you and helping you to understand your feelings and thought processes.  Counsellors don’t generally give advice or tell you what to do, instead focusing on guiding you to find your own solutions.

ECG (Electrocardiogram)

ECG (Electrocardiogram) – a test using sensors attached to the skin to detect the electrical signals produced by your heart each time it beats.  This may be one of the physical assessments made to diagnose, monitor, and manage an eating disorder.

Family Therapy

Family Therapy – an evidence-based treatment for children and young people with eating disorders, which focusses on empowering the family to take an active role in recovery and improving communication and relationships.

Some family-based treatment has been specifically adapted for children and young people with anorexia.  Parents are supported to take a central role in recovery at home in areas such as mealtime management, returning to normal behaviours, and helping the family return to normal life.

Family therapy may also be offered to adults with eating disorders if other therapeutic routes have not been effective.

IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies)

IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) – if you are over 18, live in England and are registered with a GP you can directly refer yourself for NHS psychological therapies including CBT, counselling, and guided self-help.

Find an NHS IAPT service


Malnutrition – a serious condition that happens when your body is not getting enough nutrients (undernutrition) or getting more nutrients than needed (overnutrition).  There is a common misconception that you are only at risk of malnutrition if you’re severely underweight, but it can occur at any weight if you severely restrict food intake or have erratic or irregular eating behaviours.

MANTRA (Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa Treatments for Adults)

MANTRA (Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa Treatments for Adults) – a treatment specifically developed for people with anorexia who have positive beliefs about their eating disorder, low motivation to recover, a lack of support network, or when other intervention has not been helpful.  Treatment consists of 20 or more sessions designed to work out what keeps people stuck in their anorexia, to help them find alternative ways of coping and to make lasting changes that improve quality of life.

MaRSiPAN (Management of Really Sick Patients with Anorexia Nervosa)

MaRSiPAN (Management of Really Sick Patients with Anorexia Nervosa) – a group of specialists (doctors, nurses, dieticians) all with expertise in managing eating disorders in adults, children, and young people. The group provides guidance to support clinicians in identifying and managing physical health risk when assessing people with eating disorders. There is separate guidance for adults (MaRSipan) and children/young people (Junior MaRSiPAN).

Multi-disciplinary team

Multi-disciplinary team – a group of health and care staff that work together to make decisions regarding the treatment of patients. In eating disorder services this may include consultants, specialist mental health nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, dieticians, occupational therapists, family therapists, social workers, and peer support workers.

NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)

NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) – an agency of the NHS (National Health Service) that promotes clinical excellence in NHS service providers in England and Wales, by developing evidence-based health and social care guidance, and recommendations on the effectiveness of treatments and medical procedures.

Read the latest NICE guidelines for eating disorder recognition and treatment


Psychiatry/Psychiatrist – psychiatrists are medically qualified doctors who have specialised in psychiatry; the study of mental disorders and their diagnosis, management and prevention.  Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and carry out medical tests and tend to work with people with more severe conditions or those requiring medical intervention in inpatient settings.


Psychology/Psychologist – psychologists are academically qualified but are not doctors. They specialise in areas such as mental health (including eating disorders) and counselling, working with people of all ages to reduce distress and bring positive change to behaviours and underlying thoughts and feelings. In eating disorder services, clinical psychologists may be involved in assessment and providing therapies such as CBT.


Psychotherapy/Psychotherapist – psychotherapy is also known as talking therapy. It can help treat challenges and symptoms associated with mental illnesses, including eating disorders, by helping you to understand repressed feelings and develop strategies to overcome them. Psychotherapy is similar to counselling and the two terms are often used interchangeably.  Psychotherapists are trained professionals, but not medical doctors.

In this video Dr Christian Buckland, Psycotherapist and Talk ED Expert Adviser, explains what eating disorders are and how psychotherapy can help people who have problems with food and eating.

Read more about the different types of psychotherapy, and find a qualified professional.


SCOFF – a screening tool used by GPs and healthcare professionals to assist with diagnosis of an eating disorder. The questions are:
-Do you make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
-Have you lost Control over how much you eat?
-Have you recently lost more than One stone in a three month period?
-Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin?
-Would you say Food dominates your life?
One point is allocated for every ‘yes’ answer, and a score of two or more indicates a likely case of an eating disorder that may need further investigation.

SCOFF may form part of a range of physical and psychological checks by GPs and healthcare professionals and should not be used as the sole measure to determine whether to offer treatment for an eating disorder.

SSCM (specialist supportive clinical management)

SSCM (specialist supportive clinical management) – a treatment for adults with anorexia which focusses on guiding people towards meeting their own treatment goals.  This includes not just addressing the symptoms, but on improving quality and enjoyment of life.  SSCM is a more flexible approach than many of the other approaches offered foe anorexia.  Treatment usually consists of up to 20 sessions, depending on severity.

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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