“I have tried starving myself and exercising so that I can become skinny all over. I feel like the odd one out and that everywhere I go I am being looked at and judged.”
These are the words of a 15-year-old who contacted Childline.
She is just one of thousands of young people who contact us each year to talk about eating disorders.
In 2017-18, Childline counsellors chatted to 5,900 children and young people about their problems with eating, fuelled by body image concerns and mental health difficulties.
This was 22% more than the previous year.
Eating disorders take on different forms. It may be that someone is not consuming enough food or that they find it difficult to stop eating.
And it can be for a variety of reasons. It may be about feeling in control of something in their life or that they are unhappy.
They may feel pressure to have a certain type of body shape.
It’s normal for people to worry about the way they look, especially when growing and going through puberty.
But an unhealthy relationship with food can cause a person a lot of anxiety and can ultimately be very dangerous for them, both physically and mentally.
For this reason it is really important for a child or young person who is struggling with an eating disorder to seek help – to talk to an adult they trust.
However, if this is too daunting or if that person is not around because it’s after school or in the middle of the night then they can contact Childline, which is confidential.
We’re here – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – to listen to young people and suggest options about what they can do to help their situations.
Actions that a young person can try, in order to feel better, include not comparing themselves with others; trying to ignore negative and mean comments; and focusing on activities they enjoy or are good at.
On our Childline website we have a message board where children and young people can share what they are going through and feeling, as well as reading comments from others.
Also on the Childline website, there is various information about eating disorders.
Children and young people with any worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk while adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC’s free and confidential helpline on 0808 800 5000.
Watch a video about Childline at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZAtHTs3vwk&feature=youtu.be