What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that are neither a "phase" or a choice. They can be harmful, but with the appropriate treatment, recovery is possible.

Whilst there isn't one single cause for an eating disorder to develop, a combination of social, genetic, and psychological factors can increase the chances of one developing in a person. Eating disorders don't discriminate and can happen to anyone, irrespective of age or gender - but they generally begin between 14 and 25 years old.

Characterised by disordered thoughts and actions, many experts believe eating disorders are a form of coping strategy, leading to compulsions in the person that take over their daily life.

Our specialised services support children, young people and adults with an eating disorder, across 3 mental health locations in the UK.

A tailored approach to eating disorder treatment, unique to each individual

Eating disorders can present in a variety of ways

Since each individual is unique, there could be any number of factors contributing to their eating disorder. Negative life experiences, such as a traumatic event, might contribute to the emergence of an eating disorder. When overwhelming emotions of worry and anxiety arise, an eating disorder serves to temporarily alleviate those feelings by channelling the individual's energy into an unhealthy obsession with food, eating or exercise.

As a result of these varying factors, there is no right or wrong way to have an eating disorder. And, when it comes to diagnosis you may not "check all the boxes" you might assume would confirm an eating disorder. Disordered eating is usually defined by eating behaviours that are detrimental to a person's mental, physical, and emotional health.

Our approach to treating an eating disorder fully depends on the indiviual and thier own needs.

Common symptoms of eating disorders
  • Isolating yourself or avoiding others
  • Low confidence and low self-esteem
  • Anxiety, especially when eating in front of others
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Distorted perception of body or weight
  • Excessive focus on weight and fear of gaining weight
  • Unhealthy/excessive levels of exercise
  • Low mood or mood swings
  • Other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
What we know about eating disorders
  • Eating disorders affect all genders, all races and every ethnic group
  • Eating disorders are most common in individuals between the ages of 14-25 years old but can occur at any age
  • Eating disorders have the highest risk of death of any mental illness
  • People with eating disorders are commonly high achievers, and often very high-functioning
  • Many people with eating disorders look healthy yet may be extremely ill.
"Eating disorders grow in isolation." - Rachel Matthews, Director of Mental Health

How our award-winning eating disorder specialists can help

The sooner you receive help for your eating disorder the better your chances of recovery are. Research shows that early intervention (seeking treatment within the first 3 years of the disorder) can have a positive impact on the effectiveness of eating disorder treatment. Eating disorders thrive in isolation so if you are worried that you are developing an eating disorder, or you're worried about a friend or loved one then it's important that you raise your concerns and speak to someone who can help.

At Schoen Clinic we have developed an innovative stepped care model which provides our patients with the right level of support at different points of their journey to recovery.


Emily's story

Schoen Clinic Chelsea

Our Intensive Treatment Programme for children and young people at Schoen Clinic Chelsea has been designed to provide a more comprehensive approach to eating disorder treatment.

Emily shares her story following treatment and hopes to inspire others to take the first step towards recovery.


A parent's story

Schoen Clinic Newbridge

After 9 months of therapy wasn't working, Jazz was referred to Schoen Clinic Newbridge for Specialist eating disorder treatment.

Her parents Lisa and John, share their story and express how proud they are of their daughter following treatment at Schoen Clinic Newbridge.

We're here for you

Schoen Clinic UK eating disorder hospitals

We currently have three locations in the UK specialising in eating disorder treatment. Find further information about our locations and how our Specialists can help to support you, or learn more about the conditions we treat below.