A guide for young people Anorexia

If you're concerned about anorexia nervosa, you're not alone. Around one in 100 young people aged 10-20 suffer from anorexia each year. It can be very difficult to accept that you have a problem, but when you do, there are lots of people who can help.

What is anorexia nervosa?

close up of a girl with curly hair looking away and smiling beside a window and a plant on the background

Anorexia is an eating disorder where you worry about your weight, want to lose weight and eat less and less food. It's a serious condition, but with the right help, you can recover and take back your life.

If things feel out of control, restricting what you eat could be a way of feeling more in charge. But this feeling does not last - restricting your food intake is not a long-term solution.

Girls are ten times more likely than boys to develop anorexia, but eating disorders are becoming more common among males.

Advice if you're feeling out of control

The symptoms of anorexia

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa are both physical and mental.

Feelings and behaviours:

  • eating less and less
  • exercising too much
  • thinking a lot about calories
  • feeling panicky about eating in front or others or having a big meal
  • feeling fat even though people tell you you're too thin
  • obsession with body image and comparing your body to others
  • losing interest in things
  • low mood and irritability

Physical changes:

  • losing lots of weight quickly
  • periods stopping or being unable to have an erection
  • feeling cold all the time
  • growing new downy hair on your body
  • poor sleep and concentration
  • constipation

Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by anorexia nervosa. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.

How to speak to your GP about mental health

What to do about anorexia


Take the first step – Anorexia can happen to anyone. It can be very difficult to accept that you have a problem, but it's the first step to getting better.

If you think you are affected by anorexia nervosa, talk to someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.

You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.

Read our guide to CAMHS

Treating anorexia

Treatment usually begins by assessing how much anorexia is affecting your physical health. If your weight is very low, you may be admitted to hospital to get your strength back up.

Your treatment could involve counselling, group and family therapy, working with a dietician, and support from a mental health team to help you gradually return to healthy eating habits.

You'll be supported to make sure you're getting enough to eat and learn what your healthy weight should be.  You may also be offered medication.

Your guide to support

Get help now

Where to get help

See below for a list of organisations and helpline services that have information to support you.

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258.

    Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Opening times:
  • Beat

    Offers information and support for anybody affected by eating disorders.

    One-to-one web chat available.

    Enter your postcode in the HelpFinder to see what eating disorder support is available in your area.

    Information on helpline accessibility and confidentiality available here.

    Opening times:
    365 days a year - weekdays (9am - 8pm); weekends (4pm - 8pm)
  • Anorexia and Bulimia Care

    Offers support to anyone affected by eating disorders.

    Hosts an online community for anybody supporting someone with an eating disorder.

    Opening times:
    9:30am - 5pm, Tuesday - Friday
  • Youth Access

    Provides information about local counselling and advice services for young people aged 12-25.

    You can find local services on their website.

  • The Mix

    Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

    Email support available via their online contact form.

    Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

    Free short-term counselling service available.

    Opening times:
    3pm - 12am, seven days a week