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The Surrey Hypnotherapy Clinic
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Eating Disorders - Best Help, Advice, Therapy & Treatment

What is an Eating Disorder ?

Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially, and they may have serious consequences. The most common eating disorders are: 

  • Habitual Overeating - eating the same, or a larger, amount of food than necessary - partly due to leading a more sedentary lifestyle with less exercise, as often happens with increasing age (e.g. 'middle age spread').
  • Emotional Overeating (or 'Comfort Eating', or 'Food Addiction') - eating large amounts of food in response to negative emotions (such as anxiety or depression) rather than physical hunger, because doing so helps the the person to 'feel better'.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – when a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time.
  • Bulimia nervosa – when a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives (medication to help empty the bowels) to try to control their weight.
  • Anorexia nervosa – when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or exercising excessively.
  • EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) - Some people, particularly those who are young, may be diagnosed with EDNOS - this indicates that they may have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.
  • Disordered eating / eating problems - such as a desire to eat objects and material that are not meant to be eaten and that have no nutritional value.
  • Note - for completeness. There may be other social causes of extreme weight loss, malnutrition or obesity, such as lack of money, or food, or neglect by carers through either ignorance or deliberate abuse where the people most vulnerable are the very young and the elderly - and the neglectful carer may also have mental health problems and challenges of their own (e.g. Alzheimers disease, or low IQ).

Eating disorders vary in their severity. At the extremes being either excessively overweight, or underweight (as with Anorexia) can lead to health complications and premature death.


It has been estimated that over 725,000 men and women in the UK are affected by eating disorders such as Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating DisorderBoys, girls, men and women from all backgrounds and ethnic groups can be affected by eating disorders.


Although potentially very serious if left untreated, eating disorders are treatable conditions and full recovery is possible and people can and do make a full recovery and go on to enjoy a full life that is no longer dominated by food.


Psychologically, eating disorders such as Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, are recognised mental health illnesses.


Emotional Overeating (or 'Comfort Eating', or 'Food Addiction') can be a way of coping with feelings about yourself and your own weight or body image. Sometimes it is a way of coping with feelings about situations, possibly outside of your control, and inescapable (such as the demands and/or relationships associated with school, workplace, family, caring and/or friendships), that are making you unhappy, angry, depressed, anxious or worried.


Similarly undereating, as occurs in Anorexia and Bulimia can arise initially as a result of concerns about body weight and shape.


Psychologically, an eating disorder is usually associated with feelings of guilt and shame about body shape and the eating disorder itself; and any external situation outside of your control over which you feel powerless. There is often also associated anxiety about both the limitations on lifestyle and opportunities together with the the likely health consequences should the eating disorder persist - and that anxiety can itself also lead to people being unhappy, angry, depressed, anxious or worried


Eating disorders are complex; there’s no one single cause and not all symptoms are causal, and not all symptoms will apply to all people, and some symptoms arise and exist as a result of the eating disorder. Not all symptoms will be the same in terms of severity, frequency and duration. Some people feel that they have a mixture of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder or even alternate between them.


Not all people recognise that they have an eating disorder, and some, because they may feel powerless in relation to their eating disorder, which they know that they are unable to control or stop even if they wanted to, prefer instead to believe that "it's just the way they are...".


Some people also find they are affected by other mental health issues, such as an urge to harm themselves or abuse alcohol or drugs.

EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified)

Some people with an eating disorder may have received a diagnosis of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). This was used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classification system until 2013. Around 50% of all people diagnosed with an eating disorder were diagnosed with EDNOS and studies suggested that a significant percentage of people with this diagnosis actually had binge eating disorder. The aim of the changes to the classification system in 2013 were to ensure more people with eating disorders have a diagnosis that accurately describes their symptoms and behaviours.


A diagnosis of EDNOS would typically have been given to someone whose symptoms didn’t meet all of the criteria for anorexia or bulimia or where their symptoms were a mix of those for anorexia and bulimia.


EDNOS is not a less serious form of an eating disorder. The latest diagnostic criteria no longer uses this term and people would be diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder

Disordered eating / eating problems


Pica involves someone eating objects which are not suitable to be eaten and have no nutritional value. These can include chalk, plaster, paint and clothing. Whilst some objects pass through the body without harm, pica can be very dangerous. If you are worried about a person who has eaten something inedible, seek medical advice from a GP or hospital. The causes of pica are unknown however it can be linked to certain mineral deficiencies (like iron or zinc) and it is possibly associated with certain psychological disturbances and social deprivation. People with learning disabilities sometimes have pica. Complications can include lead poisoning, malnutrition, abdominal problems, intestinal obstruction, hypokalemia (low levels of potassium), hyperkalemia (high levels of potassium), mercury poisoning and dental injury.


Rumination Disorder or Chew and Spit

Rumination disorder involves a person repeatedly regurgitating food. Regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out and is not due to a medication condition (e.g. gastrointestinal condition).


Night Eating Syndrome

Night eating syndrome involves eating the majority of food late at night or when waking from sleep or excessive food consumption after an evening meal. Often people with this problem skip eating at the beginning of the day.


Prader-Willi Syndrome

Prader-Willi Syndrome is a complex genetic disorder which is present from birth. People with Prader-Willi Syndrome have an insatiable appetite because of a defect in the hypothalamus that results in them never actually feeling full. People are often overweight and may steal food, eat pet foods and spoiled items in a bid to feed their appetite. Children born with Prader-Willi Syndrome may have early feeding problems that lead to tube feeding, and often also have a degree of behavioural or mental health problems and learning disabilities. Physical problems associated with the Syndrome are delayed motor development, abnormal growth, speech impairments, stunted sexual development, poor muscle tone, dental problems, obesity and diabetes type 2. The Prader-Willi Syndrome Association (UK) is a charitable organisation that supports people with Prader-Willi Syndrome, their families, carers, and the professionals who work with them.


Selective Eating Disorder (SED)

Selective Eating Disorder (SED) is often thought to be associated with food phobia. Since SED does tend to revolve around phobia, Hypnoanalysis is usually a helpful form of therapy as the therapy identifies and explores any negative thought patterns and feelings which can lead to various behaviours such as phobias (including a phobia of being sick), panic attacks and anxiety, including social anxiety. 

What causes eating disorders?

Eating disorders are often blamed solely on the social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. However, the causes are usually more complex.

An eating disorder may be associated with biological, genetic or environmental factors combined with a particular event that triggers the disorder. There may also be other factors that maintain the illness. 

Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a person having an eating disorder include:

  • having a family history of eating disordersdepression or substance misuse
  • being criticised for their eating habitsbody shape or weight
  • being overly concerned with being slim, particularly if combined with pressure to be slim from society or for a job – for example, ballet dancers, models or athletes
  • certain underlying characteristics – for example, having an obsessive personality, an anxiety disorderlow self-esteem or being a perfectionist
  • particular experiences, such as sexual or emotional abuse or the death of someone special
  • difficult relationships with family members, friends or work colleagues.
  • stressful situations – for example, pressure to perform and/or problems at work, school or university

Eating disorders are complex and not everyone will experience the same symptoms. People will respond differently to treatment and can take different amounts of time to recover. Some people can be affected by more than one type of eating disorder or find their symptoms changing type as they recover.

Do I have an eating disorder?

Sometimes a questionnaire is used by medical doctors to help identify people who may have an eating disorder. The questionnaire asks the following five questions:

  • Do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  • Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?
  • Have you recently lost more than one stone (six kilograms) in a three-month period?
  • Do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?
  • Would you say food dominates your life?

If you answer "yes" to two or more of these questions, you may have an eating disorder.

Spotting an eating disorder in others

It can often be very difficult to identify that a loved one or friend has developed an eating disorder.


Warning signs to look out for include:

  • missing meals
  • complaining of being fat, even though they have a normal weight or are underweight
  • repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror
  • making repeated claims that they've already eaten, or they'll shortly be going out to eat somewhere else and avoiding eating at home
  • cooking big or complicated meals for other people, but eating little or none of the food themselves
  • only eating certain low-calorie foods in your presence, such as lettuce or celery
  • feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places, such as at a restaurant
  • the use of "pro-anorexia" websites

It can be difficult to know what to do if you're concerned about a friend or family member. It's not unusual for someone with an eating disorder to be secretive and defensive about their eating and their weight, and they may deny being unwell.

As well as The Surrey Hypnotherapy Clinic you can also talk in confidence to an adviser from the eating disorders charity Beat by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677. They also have a designated youth helpline on 0808 801 0711. Both helplines are open every day of the year from 4pm to 10pm.

Who gets Eating Disorders ?

A report in 2015 estimated more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Eating disorders tend to be more common in certain age groups, but they can affect people of any age.

  • Children as young as seven can develop anorexia and there is a greater proportion of boys in this younger age group.
  • Young women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, particularly those aged 12 to 20, but older women and men of all ages can also have an eating disorder.
  • Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.
  • Bulimia is around two to three times more common than anorexia nervosa, and 90% of people with the condition are female. It usually develops around the age of 18 or 19.
  • Eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental illness – one in five of the most seriously affected will die prematurely from the physical consequences or suicide.
  • Binge eating affects males and females equally and usually appears later in life, between the ages of 30 and 40. As it's difficult to precisely define binge eating, it's not clear how widespread it is, but it's estimated to affect around 5% of the adult population.

Eating disorders are complex and there is no one single reason why someone develops an eating disorder. A whole range of different factors combine such as genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological influences. A number of risk factors need to combine to increase the likelihood that any one person develops the condition.

Eating Disorders - Formal Diagnosis

Doctors and healthcare professionals use internationally agreed criteria to make a diagnosis of an eating disorder. Diagnosis is usually essential to be able to access treatment. Diagnosis is made by ‘taking a history’ which means talking to the person, rather than just by physical tests or medical checks.


The two main classification systems are the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Both cover eating disorders and are very similar in the criteria they use. The DSM is used more frequently in the USA and the latest version was published in 2013 is DSM-5.


The main eating disorders listed in the DSM-5 are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED).

The next version of the ICD is due to be published in 2017 and is likely to include binge eating disorder as a separate eating disorder as DSM-5 has done.

NHS Treatment for Eating Disorders

If an eating disorder isn't treated, it can have a negative impact on someone's job or schoolwork, and can disrupt relationships with family members and friends. The physical effects of an eating disorder can sometimes be fatal.

Treatment for eating disorders is available through the NHS, although appointments, and recovery, can take a long time. It's important that the person affected wants to get better, and the support of family and friends is invaluable.


Treatment usually involves monitoring a person's physical health while helping them deal with the underlying psychological causes. The NHS do not recommend any one particular approach for treating eating disorders, instead the NHS recommends a range of approaches, including:

  • using self-help manuals and books, possibly under guidance from a therapist or another healthcare professional
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – therapy that focuses on changing how a person thinks about a situation, which in turn will affect how they act
  • interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) – a talking therapy that focuses on relationship-based issues
  • dietary counselling – a talking therapy to help a person maintain a healthy diet
  • psychodynamic therapy or cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) – therapy that focuses on how a person's personality and life experiences influence their current thoughts, feelings, relationships and behaviour
  • family therapy – therapy involving the family discussing how the eating disorder has affected them and their relationships
  • medication – for example, a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used to treat bulimia nervosa or binge eating

Help for Eating Disorders using Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy & Counselling

Eating disorders are complex and not everyone will experience the same symptoms. People will respond differently to treatment and can take different amounts of time to recover. Some people can be affected by more than one type of eating disorder or find their symptoms changing type as they recover.


Whether your eating difficulties began recently, or you’ve been struggling for a while or you’re finding yourself relapsing, you deserve support and with this support you can overcome your eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses and you deserve to have your concerns acknowledged respectfully, to be taken seriously and to be supported in the same way as if you were affected by any other illness.


Eating disorders are psychological problems and can be a way of coping with feelings or situations that are making you unhappy, angry, depressed, anxious or worried.


Sometimes people worry about talking to someone because they feel their eating disorder isn’t serious enough, they don’t want to worry people or waste their time, or because they feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. This makes it difficult for peoplle to achieve a speedy resolution to their problem.


However Hypnoanalysis, in the caring hands of a hypnotherapist who is experienced and trained in this specialised technique, is a very specialised form of Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) that overcomes many of the difficulties associated with traditional IPT therapies, such as psychodynamic therapies and cognitive analytical therapies.


Hypnoanalysis therapy, a therapeutic combination and blend of Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy and Counselling is a unique form of Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) that can be used to successfully help eating disorders.


Peter considers that, in general, Hypnoanalysis is, because of the way it works, for most clients:

  • An easier form of therapy for most clients, facilitating easier and faster engagement between therapist and client.
  • A form of therapy that most clients find to be both enjoyable and interesting.
  • Faster than traditional IPT therapies, such as psychodynamic therapies and cognitive analytical therapies.
  • More effective and more affordable than other therapies that can easily take more than twice as many sessions, if not more.

Peter has developed and refined this specialised technique over more than 15 years and despite experimentation with other more traditional methods from time to time has always returned to this specialised technique which Peter has found to be far superior to other more traditional therapies and methods that have sometimes been used for the treatment of eating disorders.






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For Hypnosis therapy and Hypnotherapy in Surrey, the Surrey towns of: Addlestone, Aldershot, Bracknell, Byfleet, Camberley, Epsom, Farnborough, Godalming, Guildford, Knaphill, Leatherhead, Runnymede, Staines, Sunbury, Walton, West Byfleet, Weybridge and Woking are all within a short 30 minute drive from Woking Hypnosis Hypnotherapist Peter Back at the Surrey Hypnotherapy Clinic,


If you would like to find out more about how Surrey Hypnotherapist Peter Back might be able to help you, or if you are simply looking for the best help, advice, therapy or treatment, from a highly qualified and experienced Psychoanalyst, Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist or Hypnotist, just contact Peter by e-mail, at the Surrey Hypnotherapy Clinic, Woking, to arrange an appointment to learn more about Hypnosis and Peter's own unique form of specialist, evidence based, Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy.

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