This article provides information for students about support services for food-related distress and eating disorders.
Food is not just our fuel - it carries rich layers of social and cultural symbolism, as well as personal psychological meaning. Taken together with the image and body-consciousness of western culture, it is not surprising that food can become a symptom, and sometimes a source, of emotional difficulties. Distress focused on food and eating is a relatively common issue for students, and affects both male and female students.
If you are finding that your relationship with food has become a source of distress or difficulty, then it is a good idea to seek help as soon as possible. If you think you may have an eating disorder then it is important to consult a GP, in the first instance. It is also advisable to consult your GP if you are feeling persistently low, or if your difficulties are significantly affecting your daily functioning.
It is always advisable to let your personal tutor or course leader know if you are having difficulties affecting your studies - they are there to help, and can offer useful advice and support.
You can learn skills to help you tackle issues with body image and general confidence, and there is a lot of other support available to start appropriate treatment for eating difficulty or disorder:
Student Wellbeing Service
The Student Wellbeing Service offers confidential help with a wide range of personal and emotional concerns and is available to every student at the University, free of charge. All kinds of students find their way to us from all over the University and for all sorts of reasons, and we are experienced in providing support to students with food-related difficulties and in helping students seek appropriate further support.
The service has three strands: wellbeing advice, counselling, and mental health advice. They are all linked together so when you apply you only have to approach us once – we will sort out which one is most likely to meet your needs.
To contact us or register for support see our article on accessing support from the Student Wellbeing Service.
Courses and workshops
The Student Wellbeing Service hosts a range of workshops and courses for learning skills to tackle common issues like stress, anxiety and low mood. There are no courses or workshops specific to eating distress, but the skills taught on several of them may still be useful - for example, the 'Introduction to compassionate mind' workshop. Consult our Course and Workshop Programme to see if any of them seem relevant to your personal issues and concerns.
All students also have free access to a set of short online courses, called SilverCloud, to learn evidence-based strategies for tackling the common issues of stress, anxiety, depression and poor body image. These courses can be accessed confidentially and completed independently, in your own time and at your own pace. Find out more and register directly from our Online Resources article.
The University library has copies of the following books which could be useful:
- Cooper, P. J - Bulimia Nervosa Binge-Eating - 157.7/COO
- Fairburn, C. G - Overcoming Binge Eating - 157.7/FAI
- Freeman, C - Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa - 157.7/FRE
- Gauntlett-Gilbert, J - Overcoming Weight Problems - 616.398/GAU
- Orbach, S - On Eating - 616.8526/ORB
You can search the Library Catalogue here.
If you would like to research more around the topic of food-related distress and disorder, the Student Wellbeing Service can recommend the following self help resources:
- ‘NHS self-help guide: Food for Thought’ The ‘Food for Thought’ booklet suggests steps you can take to develop a healthier lifestyle.
- ‘NHS self-help guide: Eating Disorders’ This booklet helps you recognise an eating disorder and understand the things that cause and keep it going, as well as helping you consider whether you want to make changes and what steps you could take to do so.
- Eating Disorders A wide selection of information from the Royal College of Psychiatrists about eating disorders.
- Beat National charity providing information on eating disorders as well as helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups for people affected by eating disorders.
- 'Overcoming Disordered Eating: Part A' and 'Overcoming Disordered Eating: Part B' Comprehensive set of workbooks from the Centre for Clinical Interventions, an Australian specialist public mental health service, aimed at helping with eating problems. Also look for their workbook on ‘Building Body Acceptance’ and topics such as improving low self-esteem and tackling perfectionism.
University of Portsmouth Student Wellbeing Service Contact Details:
Phone: +44 (0)23 9284 3466
Location: Nuffield Centre, Second Floor, St Michael's Road, Portsmouth, PO1 2ED