Eating disorders refer to a number of conditions characterised by eating patterns that affect a person’s health and wellbeing.

The most well-known eating disorders are:

Anorexia Nervosa - where a person restricts their food intake through dieting, fasting and exercise. People living with anorexia may also use purge activities to compensate for any food intake. 

Bulimia Nervosa - where a person binge eats before making themselves sick (purging) or engaging in other purging activities such as using laxatives, diuretics or enemas.

Binge Eating Disorder - this is where a person regularly and uncontrollably consumes large amounts of food in short periods of time. People living with binge eating disorder do not purge or use other purging activities. 

Orthorexia - this is where a person has an intense fixation with eating 'pure' or 'clean' food. Although the term 'orthorexia' is not commonly used when diagnosing an eating disorder and, eating well is good for overall health, intense fixation on diet and healthy eating can sometimes go too far and put a person's health at risk - causing severe distress and anxiety when they are faced with consuming something they don't consider to be 'clean'. 

Eating disorders are often believed to mainly affect women, but this isn’t true. Eating disorders are more common than you might think among men, and the issue is widely under-reported.

Living with an eating disorder is a complex mental health condition which can lead to serious health complications, so it’s important to get help and advice if you’re worried about it.

If you get in touch with SX, we can talk to you about your concerns, and help you to access support that can help. You can find out more about eating disorders by visiting www.beat.org.uk

What causes eating disorders?

There are many possible causes of eating disorders and, we know you are more likely to experience an eating disorder if:

  • you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or addiction
  • you have been criticised for your eating habits or body image
  • you have a fixation on the size of your body and also feel body related pressure from society 
  • you are experiencing other mental health issues such as anxiety, low self-esteem or obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • you have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused

For gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, however, the complex relationship between gender identity, sexual orientation, how an individual person feels, and their body image can contribute to developing an eating disorder. 

While there are no definite causes of eating disorders, we know there are certain factors which affect the development of eating disorders in gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with men including:

  • Higher rates of depression and anxiety-related conditions compared to the general population
  • Struggling with identity in a heteronormative society – something which is often not understood by many people, groups and services
  • Higher rates of issues such as low self-esteem and poor body image
What are the symptoms of eating disorders?

It can be really hard to work out when someone is suffering from an eating disorder, but symptoms tend to fall into two main groups – behavioural or physical.

Here are some things to look out for:

Behavioural symptoms:

  • Reducing food intake (e.g. smaller portion sizes)
  • Skipping meals
  • An obsession with weight
  • Rarely eating food around other people
  • Being very secretive around food
  • Going to the bathroom often after eating
  • Cutting food into small pieces and eating very slowly
  • Eating a lot of food very fast
  • Excessive exercise
  • Wearing loose or baggy clothes to hide weight loss or gain
  • Having strick habits or routines around food
  • Being distressed or anxious around food

Physical symptoms:

  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Fainting
  • Problems with digestion