How to help someone with the eating disorder

Anorexia Nervosa is both a psychological and physical disorder characterised by the deliberate refusal to eat. Starvation and weight loss give the sufferer a sense of control and achievement.

The disorder can begin with the elimination of high-calorie foods and lead up to more extreme behaviour such as fasting, excessive exercise, vomiting and the use of laxatives.

The main symptoms include a restriction of diet, fear of putting on weight, distorted perception of body shape and size and irregular or ceased periods. Other possible symptoms are poor circulation and sensitivity to the cold, light downy hair on the body, dry skin and thinning hair.

Getting help: The earlier anorexia is treated the better the chances of recovery. Treatment usually includes a return to healthy eating habits and a healthy weight, treatment of any accompanying physical problems and counselling.

If you are planning on approaching someone about a suspected eating disorder, show them you understand that their problem is not entirely about body image and that there might be something else troubling them. Focus on how they are feeling rather than what they are doing and show them you believe in their ability to recover. Don't be surprised if they deny they have a problem and don't put pressure on them to make immediate changes.

Bodywhys is the national voluntary organisation helping those with eating disorders. Helpline, lo-call 1890 200444