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You may not be quite sure why you’re here. But we’re really glad you are. You might have noticed that you’re worried about eating, weight or shape. The best way forward is to get help and support early, you are not alone.

How can we help?

Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice or “phase”. They are serious mental illnesses that involve extreme concern about eating, weight or shape plus disordered eating.

Eating disorders aren’t all about food. People with eating disorders often feel a lot of pain, sadness and worry. The eating disorder can be a way to cope.


‘Disordered eating’ can include limiting food intake, binge eating (eating a very large amount of food at once and feeling out of control of eating) and/or purging (making yourself sick or misusing laxatives). People may also exercise a lot, or exercise in rigid ways.

Anyone can develop an eating disorder. They occur in boys and girls, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and people of all cultures.
 
Adolescence and early adulthood are peak time periods for the development of an eating disorder. 

Some of the symptoms associated with eating disorders include:

  • Thinking about food all the time
  • Dieting
  • Missing meals
  • Eating alone
  • Counting calories
  • Worry around meal times
  • Guilt after eating
  • Worrying about losing control around food
  • Comfort eating
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent changes in weight
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Vomiting after eating
  • Signs of damage due to vomiting (like grazed knuckles)
  • Worries about body shape and weight
  • Frequent checking of your body shape or weight
  • Avoiding looking at your body
  • Comparing your body with others
  • Eating meals very slowly
  • Excessive exercise
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom during or shortly after meals
  • Stealing food
  • Regularly asking for reassurance from others about food, body weight or shape
  • Avoiding lots of foods
  • Avoiding social situations

Usually at least a few of these symptoms are present in someone with an eating disorder.

"An eating disorder is never the solution to a person’s distress or difficulties. It is always the problem."

Ulrike Schmidt, Psychiatrist and Professor of Eating Disorders

"FREED allowed me to realize that having an eating disorder doesn't define me, and my life does not have to be this way forever. I, like all humans, am worthy of happiness."

FREED service user

Alex’s story – Eating disorders aren’t just about food.

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What's next?

Ask another question, or follow the link below to take the quiz "Do I have an eating disorder".
There are four main categories of eating disorder: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED). OSFED is no less serious than the other categories and just means that symptoms don’t exactly match those for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.

OSFED includes atypical anorexia nervosa, atypical bulimia nervosa, purging disorder and night eating syndrome. In older diagnostic systems, the term “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS) was used instead of OSFED.

It is very common for people to move between different eating disorder diagnoses over time.

All eating disorders are serious. There are effective treatments for all disorders.


"FREED has helped me understand my eating disorder for what it is. So far it has helped me to spot thoughts better and understand the process in my head. It’s also helped me to treat it as a legitimate problem."

FREED service user

"Whatever your eating disorder diagnosis, help is available. The sooner you make changes, the sooner you can get on with your life."

Karina Allen, Clinical Psychologist

What's next?

Ask another question, or follow the link below to take the quiz "Do I have an eating disorder".
If you or someone you care about has been showing symptoms you are concerned about, you may want to take a clinically backed quiz.

"The earlier you get help for your eating disorder, the more likely you are to make a rapid and sustained recovery."

Michaela Flynn, Research Worker

"When I began FREED, I had no hope that I would feel better. I wanted nothing more than to be skinny and I didn't want to listen to anyone who said that there were other, more important things. Now, six months on, I see that there is more to life than my weight and I can enjoy food again. Being able to eat without feeling guilty every time has been life changing."

FREED service user

Shilla received treatment through FREED in London. She shares her experiences of her eating disorder, treatment and recovery.

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What's next?

Ask another question, or follow the link below to see options for help and support.
Yes! Only anorexia nervosa is associated with being underweight. People with other eating disorders will be a healthy weight or overweight / obese.

Eating disorders are serious conditions regardless of body size.

"I thought I didn’t deserve help because I wasn’t thin enough. I now know that how you look on the outside says very little about how you’re feeling on the inside. Eating disorders aren’t just about weight. Everyone deserves help!"

FREED service user

"You can have an eating disorder whatever your weight."

Vicki Mountford, Clinical Psychologist

What's next?

Ask another question, or follow the link below to see options for help and support.
FREED is First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders. It is a service for 16 to 25-year-olds who have had an eating disorder for three years or less.

Young people getting help for their eating disorder through FREED are given rapid access to specialised treatment which gives special attention to challenges we know young people face during these years of their life, and in the early stages of an eating disorder.


FREED is a flexible evidence-based treatment approach focused on early intervention; making it much more effective than traditional treatments at reversing the changes to brain, body and behaviour caused by eating disorders. 


The FREED service was developed and tested by the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust Foundation’s Eating Disorders Unit and King’s College London. When FREED was compared with “business as usual”, FREED reduced the amount of time an eating disorder was left untreated. FREED patients waited less time for assessment and treatment and had better treatment outcomes. Most made a full recovery from their eating disorder within one year. Using the FREED service was a positive experience for patients, carers and staff.


FREED confirmed that treating people as early as possible leads to better results for eating disorder treatment.


In 2016, FREED was introduced to three new eating disorder services in the UK. In 2018, FREED is being introduced to eight new services. By 2020, we hope that at least 20 services will be using FREED. Work is also being done to establish FREED in Australia.


People sometimes ask why FREED is only for those aged 16 to 25 with an eating disorder of up to three years. If someone has only been unwell for a short time treatment seems to work better. This is most true during adolescence and young adulthood. People with eating disorders also experience changes to their brain, body and behaviour. In the first three years of illness these changes are more easily reversed. 


Eventually, we hope that everyone with an eating disorder will be able to access tailored, specialist treatment quickly. FREED is one step towards this goal. 


"If it wasn't for FREED's rapid intervention, I would not have been well enough to pursue my dream of going to university. It makes me emotional to think how much my life has changed in one year of treatment. The steps have been small, but each step has brought me closer to, as well as made me feel I am worth, recovery."

FREED service user

"We’re really excited about FREED because it’s making a difference to the care that we provide to patients, and they tell us that it helps them at the point that they need it."

FREED clinician

A video overview of FREED – First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders.

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What's next?

Ask another question, or follow the link below to see options for help and support.
If someone has only been unwell for a short time treatment seems to work better. This is most true during adolescence and young adulthood. This means that with early treatment there is a better chance of a full recovery.

Early intervention means getting help and support as soon as possible when you need it. Research tells us that we should try and reach someone with an eating disorder within the first three years of the illness. People with eating disorders experience changes to their brain, body and behaviour. In early stages these changes are more easily reversed.

After three years, eating disorder symptoms tend to become “hard wired” in the brain. Symptoms can still be changed, but it gets harder to make changes. There may be long-lasting consequences. The sooner you get help, the easier it is to recover quickly and fully. Early intervention also means you are less likely to miss out on study, relationships and other opportunities because of your illness.


There are two key things that stop early intervention for eating disorders: difficulties spotting the illness early, and difficulties getting help. You can use our quiz “Do I have a problem” to see if you have difficulties that need help. You can use our guide to seeking help and support for assistance with getting the help you need.


"FREED has really saved my life. Early intervention is crucial and without this I probably would not be where I am now - I am sustaining a job, have moved out to a new home, and able to love myself. I still have eating issues and anxieties but I have come so far in my wellbeing and quality of life."

FREED service user

"Without FREED I am not sure I would be here today, getting early intervention was such a positive thing to happen to me when I was in a really dark place, and it gave me lots of hope for the future."

FREED service user

Phoebe received treatment through FREED in London. She shares her experiences of her eating disorder, treatment and recovery.

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What's next?

Ask another question, or follow the link below to see options for help and support.

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Do I have an eating disorder?

You can use this clinically backed tool to screen for signs of an eating disorder.

What is FREED?

FREED is a flexible evidence-based treatment approach focused on early intervention; making it much more effective than traditional treatments at reversing the changes to brain, body and behaviour caused by eating disorders.

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