Worried that a child in school might be struggling with an eating disorder?

Looking for ways to support?

Use the button below for our

Disordered Eating Toolkit

Clear animations and advice from a GP, Counsellor and a parent, which can be shared with your parents. The toolkit helps you spot the signs of an eating disorder and explores how to support children in your care.

Spurgeons - Children's charity

About us

Spurgeons is one of the UK’s leading children’s charities, supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families for 150 years. Today we have contact with over 30,000 children and teenagers and work intensively with over 3,000 young people.  Our services include children centres and family hubs, prison-based family support, services to support young carers, and families affected by domestic abuse. Parenting courses and support are also offered by Spurgeons along with counselling in schools.

About eating disorders

Eating disorders are alarmingly common- there are an estimated 1.2 million people currently living with an eating problem in the UK. For parents of children with eating problems, it can be an incredibly worrying and difficult time. You may feel frustrated and helpless, and desperate to help your child.

Types of eating disorders

There are many types of eating disorders, with different symptoms. The most well-known is anorexia nervosa, in which sufferers aim to restrict their food intake to lose weight. A person with anorexia has an intense fear of weight gain. Bulimia nervosa is a disorder which causes sufferers to purge (vomit) on purpose to rid themselves of the food they have eaten. Bulimics sometimes binge eat before purging- which can also involve using laxatives. Binge eating disorder causes sufferers to consume a large amount of food, which can then cause the sufferer to feel guilty or ashamed. OSFED (an abbreviation of other specified feeding or eating disorder) is a term covering eating disorders which don’t fall specifically into one of the above categories- and sufferers may display symptoms of different disorders at once.

The root of the matter

Eating disorders aren’t always about not gaining weight, losing weight or body shape. The root cause of an eating problem may be trauma, a perfectionist streak, or life experiences. It isn’t always straightforward to spot why a child is developing an issue with food. The cause may be a mixture of different circumstances, including anxiety, depression, low self- esteem, social influences, or genetics. It’s thought that eating disorders may be on the rise due to the impact of social media on teenagers and young adults, as they are continually shown images of thin or attractive people, which can lead to a distorted body image.


Recovery from an eating disorder takes time- and that length of time will be different for everyone. Many sufferers will be referred to a specialist team who will oversee their care and recovery. Treatment will usually involve monitoring weight gain to a healthy level, plus a talking therapy. The team may also need to monitor the patient’s physical health for any medical complications caused by the disorder.