An eating disorder is a mental health problem that causes someone to negatively change the way they eat.

People with eating disorders often feel they’re too fat or that their life would be better if they lost weight, and so they engage in dangerous behaviours with food – such as skipping meals, or only eating very limited types of food. But not all eating disorders are about body image. They can also be related to a person’s emotional or pyschological issues, such as dealing with stress, grief or wanting to feel more in control of their life.

Lots of people change their diets or start doing more exercise in order to be healthier – and there’s nothing wrong with eating vegetables or going for a run a couple of times a week, if it makes you feel good. But when that behaviour becomes obsessive, more serious problems can occur.

If having a slice of cake can ruin your day, or you avoid going to your friend’s house for dinner because you’re not sure what food will be there, this could be a sign of disordered eating and it’s a good idea to have a chat to your GP.

What types of eating disorders are there?

There are a range of eating disorders that have different symptoms and behaviours.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia is when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible, usually through extremely restricted eating and/or excessive exercise. Side effects can include hair loss, fatigue, dizziness, weakening of the bones, missing periods and growing downy hair on the arms or neck.

Bulimia

Bulimia is when a person binges on food and then makes themselves deliberately sick, or uses laxatives to try and control their weight. Bulimia has a lot of the same side effects as anorexia, as well as rotting teeth (from stomach acid) and blurring vision.

Binge eating disorder (BED)

Similarly to bulimia, BED is when a person feels compelled to eat large amounts of foods in a short space of time. They don’t usually make themselves sick or use laxatives, but they might eat less than normal or try to follow a strict diet in between binges.

Eating disorder not otherwise specified (ENDOS)

This is a sort of catch-all term to describe disordered eating behaviours that don’t fit into one of the categories above – but still have the power to make you pretty unhealthy and miserable.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Eating disorders are mental illnesses that cause someone to negatively change their eating behaviour, often in order to lose weight.
  • There are four main types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified.
  • There is no one thing that causes eating disorders, they are generally a combination of loads of different environmental and biological factors.
  • There are loads of treatment options available. Recovery can be a long process, but with the right help, people with eating disorders can make a full recovery.

What causes eating disorders?

There’s no one thing that causes eating disorders. Some people like to blame supermodels or magazines for giving us unrealistic standards of beauty and body image – but while they almost certainly don’t help, the reality is that it’s much more complicated than that. The causes of eating disorders are different for each person.

There are also environmental and social factors that can trigger eating disorders, such as being criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight, but there are also biological factors that can contribute to eating disorders, such as having a family history of eating disorders or depression.

People with perfectionist tendencies, obsessive personalities or anxiety are also more susceptible to developing an eating disorder.

How do we treat eating disorders?

Thankfully, there are loads of treatment options available for people with eating disorders. However recovery can be a long and bumpy process, so the support of friends and family is really important. If an eating disorder isn’t treated, it can have a severely negative impact on a person’s life – and in some cases, it can be fatal.

The treatment options involve both trying to improve a person’s physical health, and also helping them work through underlying mental issues.

Common treatments include cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which focuses on altering how someone thinks about a situation, and medication such as antidepressants. However, there are loads of other types of therapy available to suit different people and situations.

I think I might have an eating disorder

If you’re worried that you might have an eating disorder, it’s a good idea to talk to your parents, your GP, a teacher or another adult you trust. You can also head over to the NHS website and answer their questionnaire (under ‘Do I have an eating disorder?’) – if you answer ‘yes’ to two or more of their five questions, you should definitely have a chat with your doctor.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to feel this way forever. Help and support is out there to get you through this.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

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Everyone experiences anxiety at some point or another. Whether it’s because there’s a big exam coming up, a first date, or your parents are wondering who spilled coke on the sofa and you are trying to avoid eye contact.

These are all perfectly natural times to be anxious. It’s a normal biological response; the same one that keeps you safe and made sure that our ancestors ran away from lions and tigers and bears (oh my!).

But some people find that their anxiety stretches beyond these sorts of objectively stressful circumstances, bleeding into other aspects of their life and making it hard to ever chill.  

This is called Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

What does anxiety look like?

There are both mental and physical symptoms of GAD. Mentally, people may find that they’re constantly worried; often about things that are a regular part of everyday life, like talking to people, getting on the bus or answering a question in class. Or they find they’re disproportionately worried about things that are super unlikely to happen – like your parents being in a car accident, or that gravity will stop working and we will all be flung into space.

And sometimes, people with anxiety worry about worrying.

Physically, a person with anxiety may find themselves having difficulty concentrating or sleeping. Some people experience dizziness, a racing heart, nausea, excessive sweating and breathlessness. Basically, all the fun stuff. When these sort of sensations become overwhelming, that’s a panic attack – and as anyone who has had a panic attack will tell you, for something that is supposedly ‘all in the mind’, they can feel incredibly, terrifyingly real.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Everyone experiences anxiety at some point or another. But when anxiety stretches beyond objectively stressful circumstances and affects other aspects of life, this is called Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
  • People with anxiety may find that they’re constantly worried. They might find themselves having difficulty concentrating or sleeping, that their heart is racing or they feel dizzy, nauseous, sweaty or breathless.
  • There will always be times in your life when you feel anxious, but GAD is totally treatable. Many options involve talking therapies and anti-anxiety medications.
  • If you feel like you have any of the symptoms we’ve been talking about, it's a good idea to head to your GP for a chat.

What causes anxiety?  

Unfortunately, the exact cause of GAD isn’t fully understood. However, there are lots of things that are thought to contribute to some people developing generalised anxiety disorder – such as traumatic childhood experiences, your habits and diet, genetics and your overall mental and physical health.

Is Anxiety treatable?

Well there will always be times in your life when you feel anxious, and that’s not a bad thing. Anxious feelings can keep you safe, help you recognise true love or alert you to the fact that you do really care about your school work.

But generalised anxiety disorder is totally treatable. Many treatment options involve talking therapies, such as seeing a psychologist or a counsellor to chat about your feelings. Talking therapies can be great as they can teach you practical tactics to help you cope in certain situations, and strategies to avoid triggers.

There are also anti-anxiety medications available, which can help people cope with their symptoms and balance out their mood. It’s common for people to try a combination of talking therapies and medication, depending on their GP’s advice.

When should I go to the doctor?

It’s always good to take your mental health as seriously as your physical health (after all, your brain is a pretty vital body part). So if you feel like you have any of the symptoms we’ve been talking about, it’s not a bad idea to head to your GP for a chat.

Remember, it’s totally ok to be anxious from time to time – but if your anxiety is impacting other areas of your life, there is always help available to calm things down. 

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

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Pads are the flat pumps of the period world – reliable, timeless, comfortable, and easy to stash in your handbag.

We know that pads don’t sound particularly glamorous. Less so when your mum calls them ‘sanitary towels’ (ew). And even less so when signs urge you not to put ‘sanitary napkins’ (ew, ew, ew) down the loo.

But trust us, they’re cooler and cleverer than they look. Their sticky strips hold them to your underwear, so they don’t move around during the day and risk staining your knickers – and lots of modern pads have fancy design features to lock in fluids, prevent leaks, neutralise odours and make you a nice cup of tea.

Ok, not the last thing.

How should I use them?

It’s pretty common for most girls to start with pads and then experiment with tampons when they are more comfortable with their period.

But some people are Team Tampon from day one, others are Team Pad their whole life, and a lot of people switch between the two depending on their flow or their mood. It’s just about finding out what works best for you.

Which ones should I use?

Pads come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Most pads have a little droplet icon on the packet to indicate how absorbent they are (these icons are usually blue rather than red, which make them look more like tears than blood, but that’s a battle for another day. There are sometimes tears, tbh).

Maxi pads are great if you have a heavy period or want to wear a pad overnight. While they might look intimidatingly large, they are highly absorbent which means that you don’t have to worry about leaking on your nice sheets.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Pads come in a whole range of absorbencies, from thin ones for a light flow to maxi pads for heavy days, and night time.
  • If you have a very light period or just want some extra protection with a tampon, maybe try a pantyliner.
  • Wings are extra material on the sides that you can fold over the edge of your knickers to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around.
  • It’s good to change your pad every three to four hours during the day, to avoid leaks and keep everything comfy.

Unlike tampons, there’s no problem with wearing a higher absorbency than you need, although thinner pads will probably make you feel more comfortable and less like you’re wearing a nappy.

It might sound a bit pad-antic but we promise, it’s worth finding the best fit for you.

Wings or no wings?

Wings refer to the extra material on the sides that you can fold them over the edge of your knickers, to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around. Some people manage fine without them, but you might find the pad moves around or bunches up a bit – which can be less than ideal while you’re busy slaying all day.

So spread your wings and you will fly. Not your pad.

How often should I change my pad?

It’s a good idea to change your pad every three to four hours. If you have a heavy period, this will avoid the chance of leakage and put your mind at ease – and even if you have a light period, a fresh pad will probably just feel more comfortable. Comfort is queen, guys.

And pantyliners?

While the word ‘panty’ might make you want to vom (us too), don’t hold this against pantyliners. They are exactly like a regular pad, just thinner and smaller, which makes them incredibly useful as an inbetween option. Like the flip-flops of the period world! But less noisy.

Very light period? Pop on a pantyliner. Worried your tampon will leak? A pantyliner can give a bit of extra protection. Last few days of your period a bit unpredictable? Try a pantyliner! Find you have a lot of discharge? Pantyliner.

Impossible geography homework? Pantyliner.

No, wait.

Where do I start?

Be pad-venturous*! Don’t feel you have to stick with the first type of pad your mum/friend/school nurse hands you – try out some different types to see which one you love best.

*yes, that was another pad-related pun. We have no shame – and nor should you.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome.

Image: Kate Borrill 

Warning: reading this will cause itching.

Every summer, my friends and I would become inseparable. We would have marathon sleepovers, bouncing from house to house. We would monopolise each living room with a tangle of pillows and mattresses before falling asleep curled around each other like a whole drawer of spoons.

We shared meals and clothes and sun cream, which was nice. We shared hairbrushes and pillows and towels, which was not.

One summer, we noticed that our heads were itchy. Not in an absent, scratch-and-it’s-over way. But more like, I-want-to-dig-my-nails-into-my-scalp-and-gouge-out-entire-chunks-of-flesh sort of way.

In a hugely unsurprising turn of events, we all had head lice.

It was impossible to identify who patient zero was. Not only did we all have lice, but all of our siblings had lice too. As did an unsuspecting and completely horrified parent or two.

Looking back, I realise this is the closest I have ever come to being part of an epidemic. Lice were everywhere. All across our neighbourhood, towels, duvets, pillow cases, bed sheets, dresses and t-shirts were washed twice and hung to dry in the harsh Australian sun. Finally, the hole in the ozone layer could do something useful for us.

Hairbrushes and combs were left to soak for hours in the sink. Ha! Take that lice.

Cowboy hats (they were in that year, don’t judge me) and miscellaneous sporting caps were thrown out in a bug-induced panic.

Next we assembled, like some sort of Ghostbusters team, in my next door neighbours’ garden. We came armed with nit combs, loo roll and a bottle of conditioner each.

We sat in our bikinis, one behind the other, like a weird mix of a beauty pageant and a conga line. The process began. Apply entire bottle of conditioner to the person in front’s head. Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’ Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’ Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’

We were like a colony of less sophisticated monkeys, simultaneously thrilled and disgusted by the entire ecosystem going on in our lemon-bleached locks. We dispelled hundreds, if not thousands of lice from our heads along with alarmingly thick chunks of hair.

The idea was floated that we should just shave our heads and be done with it. We all murmured assent. But we knew none of us was ever going to part with our hair, even if it was so infested with lice that we could have named one after each member of the Kardashian/Hadid/Jenner clan going back five generations and still have plenty of lice left over.

Instead, we carried on with our grooming in companionable silence that was occasionally interrupted with a ‘Woah! Look how big this one is!’ and we would pass the impressively large lice around like some sort of repulsive trophy.

It wasn’t a particularly glamorous experience and if I could have avoided it, I probably would have. But I’ve done some reading on ‘grooming behaviour‘ and Wikipedia (don’t judge my sources either) tells me that an animal helping another animal clean itself is a form of social bonding that helps build trust. And I kind of know what they mean.

It’s that same feeling as when your mum paints the fingernails on your right hand, or your friend braids your hair. That feeling of someone else loving you enough to want to take care of you. And on the flip side, you trusting them enough to not screw it up.

The lice went away eventually, as lice generally do. But the friends? Well, they’re stuck with me forever.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Project Mc²

Alright, there’s no need to panic. Whether it’s a few lone ranger spots or a whole party of pimples, acne is pretty much bound to make an appearance at some point in everyone’s teenage years.

Rihanna? She’s had it. Miley Cyrus? Yup. Chris Hemsworth? Uh-huh. Liam Hemsworth? Him too. Michelle Obama? Yep, acne.

While knowing that the rest of the world has, or at least had acne, might be slightly reassuring, we thought you might like some practical advice as well.

Why, skin, why?

Acne is a super common skin condition that affects almost all teenagers at some point or other. Generally, it causes spots, lumps and oily skin, but some people find that it also makes their skin hot or painful to touch.

Most people develop acne on their face, but a lot people might find that they notice acne on their chest or back. Keep calm, this is totally natural! Acne can be made up of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts or a lovely pick ‘n’ mix of all four.

WHY ME?

This isn’t because you ate an entire bag of Buttons yesterday, or because you haven’t been washing your face enough or because you are a disgusting human. Spots are generally just your hormones saying ‘Hello!’

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Keep your face clean using a mild cleanser and lukewarm water before bed, so that your skin can breathe overnight.
  • Try not to squeeze. We know. Just do your best.
  • If you’re going to use skincare products, have a good idea to have a chat with a pharmacist for advice on the best product to use for your skin type.
  • If your acne is severe or you notice that it’s sprouting on your chest and back, it might be a good idea to head to the GP.

Acne often comes on during puberty as your hormone levels change. If your parents had acne, it’s more likely that you will too.

BUT the good news is that for most people acne goes away towards the end of their teen years.

Why is this happening?

Those teeny tiny little holes in your skin (look closer… closer… there they are!) are your pores, and they contain glands that make an oil called sebum. Sebum is actually really useful – it’s the thing that lubricates your hair and skin and makes it healthy and shiny, like the beautiful land mermaid you are.

But during puberty your hormones (oestrogen and progesterone, we’re lookin’ at you) can confuse your glands and cause them to produce too much sebum, which can clog your pores. Which can lead to acne.

You’re not alone

Acne is super common among teenagers and young adults – about 80% of people aged 11-30 are affected by acne. EIGHTY. Sometimes, there really is safety in numbers.

That being said, the word ‘acne’ is a bit like the word ‘fine.’ In the same way ‘fine’ can mean, ‘I’m good,’ or ‘I’ve had the worst day of my life but don’t want to talk about it.’ ‘Acne’ can mean, ‘I have one or two spots and everything’s ok,’ or it could mean ‘my entire face appears to be made of pus.’

What can I do?

Annoyingly, the most common cure for acne is time (arggh). But don’t worry – there are plenty of things you can do to ease the symptoms.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

There are loads of different ways to cleanse your face. You can use wipes or balms or foams or face washes; but the most important thing is to find a product that works for you. You might want to look for products that contain salicylic acid, which is an anti-irritant that can reduce redness and work as an anti-inflammatory to calm breakouts, or over-the-counter products featuring benzoyl peroxide, which kills the bacteria on your skin (use sparingly and always follow instructions).

If you can, try and wash your face once or twice a day, but avoid doing it more often as frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse. Fussy, we know.

It might help to avoid using a lot of make-up, as it can clog your pores even more. If that’s a deal breaker, have a look for ‘noncomedogenic’ or ‘nonacnegenic’ make-ups, as they can be a bit kinder to your skin. If you’re wearing make-up, it’s an even better idea to wash your face before bed so that your skin can breathe overnight.

Ex-squeeze me?

Step away from the mirror! You’re not meant to squeeze spots because it can spread bacteria, make them worse and lead to scarring. But look, we know that’s easier said than done. If you’re one of those magical people that can ignore the temptation to squeeze that zit into oblivion, you are our hero. We salute you.

But if you do it, at least do it right – and that means clean fingers, be reeeally gentle and don’t go digging until it’s definitely, definitely ready. Here’s a handy guide.

Run like the wind.

We know we say it a lot, but exercise can help your skin look better. And while it might not always improve your acne situation, it can boost your mood and improve your self-esteem – which is far more important than your pores, really.

Anything else?

There are loads of lotions and potions available to help get acne under control. In order to avoid staring at an entire aisle of products in Boots, it’s probably have a good idea to have a chat with a pharmacist for advice on the best product to use for your skin type.

If your acne is severe, affecting your confidence or you notice that it’s also sprouting on your chest and back, it might be a good idea to head to your GP. They can prescribe you stronger treatments that can get your skin back in tip-top shape.

Acne is kinda an inevitable part of life. Like locking yourself out of your house. Or members of your favourite boyband eventually leaving to try and launch solo careers (ily Zayn).

But the good thing is, loads of people are fighting the same battle. Acne won’t trouble you forever. And spots or no spots, your skin does a pretty great job of keeping your organs in – let’s not forget that. So take off your paper bag and remember, beauty is way more than skin deep.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

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Erm, doesn’t it seem like only yesterday when you were happily whizzing around on your scooter in the park or playing hopscotch with your pals and your deepest thoughts consisted mainly of what Santa was going to bring you for crimbo? Sorry to break it to you, but those were the glory days. Now? Well, everything feels kinda different doesn’t it? Suddenly there’s big-deal stuff going on and you’re feeling all the emotions on the regular.

Mood swings are a legit part of going through puberty, starting your period, and dealing with the hefty package of hormones that come your way. There are changes going on in your body rn that are beyond your control, so if you’re questioning “AM I EVEN NORMAL?” as you slam your bedroom door so hard it almost comes off the hinges, cut yourself some slack. This is normal behaviour. And it won’t last forever.

Tbf, it’s pretty inconvenient to be permanently on the edge of a tantrum or teary moment though. So before you contemplate hibernating from the world and emerging when you’re 25, here are some of the major moods you might be feeling at the mo, and what you can do to help handle them.

You’re angry

Oh. The. Rage. We’ve all felt the anger-monster a million times over – when your blood is literally boiling and you feel like you’ve got a fire-breathing dragon living inside of you.

And here’s the kicker. Such dramatic feelings are probably the result of some teeny-weeny, innocent crime such as your bro nicking the TV remote or your mate blanking you on Whatsapp. Irrational? Yep. Controllable? Nope.

What to do?

Breathe. That’s all. You just need to breathe through your anger until you’ve calmed down. This can prevent an outburst that you might regret later when the trigger moment has passed. Close your eyes and inhale slowly for five seconds and exhale slowly for five seconds – with each breath you should feel the red mist start to lift. Another way you can deal is to harness those fierce emotions and direct them into exercise, or channel them into a creative project – some of the greatest artists, musicians and writers have made their best work when being in an angry place.

You’re reckless

If you’re often impulsive or have a habit of blurting stuff out without thinking, there’s actually a reason for it. Here’s a nugget to quote to your parents when you’ve been grounded (again) for doing something stupid. Studies have shown that the front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until around the age of 20.

Because this area of the brain is responsible for sensible stuff like planning, anticipation, controlling and understanding emotions, it explains why teenagers are likely to do crazy, careless stuff sometimes.

What to do?

You’ve probably realised that just saying soz after doing something silly or potentially dangerous unfortunately doesn’t cut it as you’re getting older, so being able to asses a situ for its risk factor is an essential skill to learn. Take five seconds to ask yourself these simple questions before saying or doing something bonkers; “Is this *really* a good idea?”, “is it worth getting into trouble for?” and “will I look back on this as a major fail moment?”. Getting into this habit will help you to make better life decisions. The bonus is that the more you can show your ‘rents you’re considering your actions and can be responsible, the more they’ll trust you and not treat you like a kid. And the more you won’t get angry (see above).

You’re sad

Sometimes everything seems a bit bleak doesn’t it? And that’s ok. It would be weird if we were super-happy and smiley 24/7, that’s just not real life.

Feeling totes emosh – whether it’s experiencing hurt, disappointment, grief, overwhelm, or just a general low mood – is totally normal, even more so around the time when your period is due. Yep, there’s those pesky hormones at play again.

What to do?

There’s no need to deny your feelings or be ashamed of your sadness. Meaning, if you want to bawl your eyes out while you torture your soul watching sad movie after sad movie, do it. Having a big ugly cry is a natural, healthy way to relieve pent up, heavy emotions and it’s likely you’ll feel soooo much better for it afterwards. Here’s an idea though, why not try challenging your grey mood with a change of scenery and belly-laughter – being cooped up alone in your bedroom sure doesn’t help when you’re low. Hanging out and having mega-lolz with your mates, especially when you least feel like it, can be the best medicine for blasting sadness.

You’re anxious

So it’s standard to get stressed when you run into your crush and your hair is a disaster, or feel worried before taking an exam, but sometimes anxious feelings can strike when you’re doing totally normal, everyday stuff. And that sucks.

The right kind of anxiety can be a useful way of telling you that things are not quite what they should be, or that you need to get out of a situation you’re clearly not comfortable with, but if you regularly find yourself suffering with major stress, you’re massively worrying about the future and your jangly feelings are stopping you enjoying life and having fun, it might be time to go ninja on this sneaky emotion.

What to do?

Anxiety is often fuelled by a bunch of negative thoughts, so the key is to recognise your internal neggy voice and shut it down before it can run rampage – resulting in you feeling stressed, on edge, and all kinds of urgh. By over-analysing situations or worrying about the potential outcomes of something before it has *even* happened (we hear ya), it’s easy to feed the untruths going on in your brain ­– but they are just that, untruths. Working out the reality of a situ vs what your head is telling you is tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you can push those negative thoughts to one side and not let them side-track your life.

One final thought. If you’re really struggling with your moods, or the lows don’t seem to lift, you should chat to someone about how you’re feeling – having a healthy mind is equally as important as having a healthy body and your parents, teachers and GP are there to help you navigate these difficult emotions.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 


Are you feeling a little clumsier than usual? Finding yourself tripping over cracks in the pavement, doormats, your own stupid feet? Don’t worry, you haven’t just woken up one day with the coordination of a baby deer. It’s probably just because you’ve grown a few inches instead.

During adolescence, girls can grow at a rate of up to 8cm per year. That’s the length of an iPhone 6. Or a £20 note. Or Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix stacked on top of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Am I going to be a towering giantess?

It’s hard to say definitively how tall you’ll grow to be, but your height is largely decided by your parents. Your parents’ heights, that is – they didn’t get to fill out a request form. If you have tall parents, you might want to take up basketball. If your parents are on the shorter side, a glowing career as a gymnast or jockey might await you. Or not. Point is, there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ height – they all have their pros and cons.

If you’re on the smaller size of things, you will always have more legroom on planes, you will never hit your head on doorframes and you can shop in Topshop’s Petite section. If you’re on the taller side of things, you will always be able to reach the top shelf in the supermarket, you might be effortlessly good at the high jump in PE, and you can shop in Topshop’s Tall section. And medium height? Well, Topshop might sell out of 32″ jeans quicker, but at least you’ll never have to grit your teeth while aunties comment on your remarkable stature over Sunday dinner.

How does it work?

Your hands and feet are the first things to grow, so next time you feel your shoes pinching, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re going to have a growth spurt in the not-too-distant future.

Next come your arms and legs, and then your spine. Finally, your hips and pelvis widen, making you less likely to blow over in the wind.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Your height is closely linked to your parents' heights. But tall, short and everything in between is beautiful – so embrace it.
  • Often during your teenage years, growth spurts happen so quickly that your brain struggles to keep up. Hence the tripping over.
  • Growth spurts are often triggered during puberty as the levels of testosterone rise in both boys and girls.
  • Girls generally grow their fastest at 12-13 and tend to finish growing around 18, while boys grow their fastest between 14 and 15 and finish growing around 20.

Often during your teenage years growth spurts happen so quickly that your brain struggles to keep up. Hence the tripping. Your centre of gravity is changing so rapidly that your brain is having to calculate new rules for balancing, like, all the time.

Some people also experience growing pains, which can feel like an intense, cramp-like pain in your legs. Like owls, witches and vampires they generally only come out at night, and will have disappeared by the morning.  

Why now?

Growth spurts are often triggered during puberty as levels of the hormone testosterone rise in both boys and girls. This chemical also causes sexual organs (willies, vaginas, those guys) to develop, which is why these two things often happen at once. It’s kinda like a biological version of synchronised swimming. But not really.

When will it stop?

Girls generally grow at their fastest rate at 12-13 and tend to finish growing around 18. On average, boys grow their fastest between 14 and 15 and finish growing around 20.

So hold onto your hats ladies, we’ve got some growin’ (and tripping over inanimate objects) to do! But whatever height you end up, work it. Every inch of you is A++. 

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Oh, spots. You enigmas.

We can squeeze you, prod you and ignore you – but we just wish we could understand you. If we could only sit down for a good heart-to-heart, here are a few of the burning questions we might ask.

1. “Why?”

The first word that springs to mind the moment you catch sight of the monster staring belligerently at you in the mirror. Just why, you ask desperately – and for a while, this bleak three-lettered word is really all you can think. Facts about sebaceous glands, stress and hormones can’t reason with it.

But eventually the blind panic subsides into more nuanced questions like…

2. “Why me?”

It’s hard to answer. Spots are caused by all sorts of complex reasons – see above – but if there’s one thing we can assure you of, it is not because the universe hates you. It seems that way right now, but this has everything to do with chemicals that everyone has – and nothing whatsoever to do with you personally.

Pimples (a slightly more technical term for the little terrors) appear when oil-producing glands become clogged and infected. This could be hormones causing you to produce more oil; it could because your fingers or a hat or scarf you’ve been wearing has been irritating your face. It’s unlikely to be a product – most are tested for that these days – and probably not your diet either, whatever certain people in your family and friendship circles might tell you.

3. “Why now?”

Because, hormones. They’ve the starring roles in the film Period – and if you’re feeling them, chances are it’s heading to a cinema near you shortly. Testosterone levels are generally higher in puberty, and as that’s believed to increase oil production, it means you could get spots any time. Rest assured this has nothing to do with the fact you’ve a date tomorrow night, and it doesn’t mean said date is automatically doomed either.

4. “Are you as obvious to other people as you are in my head?”

Is Vesuvius erupting on your forehead? Is there real lava and people running away you screaming? Then no, he (spots are always he) isn’t.

Other people probably haven’t even noticed it. But that won’t stop you capturing every conceivable angle another human could see your face at in the mirror and on your phone camera, and begging friends, “but what about the south south west-facing aspect of my chin??”, of course.

volcano

5. “When will you make for good pick?”

Officially, of course, the answer to this is ‘never’. But we know that no sooner has the offending spot appeared than you are assessing his fitness for picking: prodding and stroking, dreaming of past victories, and comparing their colour and feel. Weirdly – grossly –  it’s actually a very similar process to that of feeling if a fruit is ripe: you will know innately when the moment comes. The challenge is holding off until it then. Strike too soon, and you’ll blow your chances of great picking for good.

6. “Why did you pretend to be ready when you weren’t?”

He looked so promising and pickable! Now he’s just a messy, painful blob. Ow. Liar.

7. “Can I hide you?”

The sensible seventh question one can only arrive at having wailed one’s way through the first six – to which the answer is that it varies according to the spot you have. If you leave him bare, he will heal quicker – but provided the spot is not, in the least gross possible way, leaking, then if you want to cover up with some concealer (or a big scarf) go for it. Just ensure you choose your product wisely…

scarf

8. “Why the hell won’t you just stay covered?” 

In short, not all concealers are born equal. Indeed, some are so ineffective they succeed in creating more of a blemish than the one they’re supposed to be concealing: all too vividly do I remember one teacher telling me that I had “a splodge of mud, dear, on the centre of your chin.”

So do your research: ask friends, family, magazines, the woman at the make up counter, what they recommend for your blemishes. You’ll cut not just the amount of time you have a spot, but the amount you spend checking, and thinking about checking, and – after you have checked – obsessing about the way the spot is blooming though your cloudy concealer like a full moon.

9. “How long are you here for?”

You beg to know, every single time you meet it in the mirror. There is no clear answer, but one’s thing for certain: the longer you pick, prod and fill him with rubbish concealer, the longer you’ll be having this conversation. Like so many bullies, the best way to deal with a spot is to not engage.

10. “Is this it for the rest of my life?”

Now for the good news. Though you will probably run into the odd one from time to time, once puberty’s done and dusted the most offending spots will plague your younger siblings (who’s laughing now, brother?) and leave your skin in peace.

peace

See ya, tiny pal. So glad we had this chat.

@finney_clare

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We’ve all been there. The good intentions, the 12 minutes of exercise and then… the sweat.

Whether it’s the telltale drip-drip-drip down the small of your back that you know is about to go full touch-and-reveal on your new t-shirt, or whether it’s just getting up from some equipment in the gym and seeing your own butt imprint left in sweat, the wet stuff can really be a buzzkill.

Whether you’re trying to exercise, dancing like a maniac at the weekend or simply… enjoying a sunny day, sweat can feel like a sneaky shaming pal, dobbing you in just when you thought you were going to have a good time. Except it isn’t a false friend. It’s actually clever, useful and kind of amazing – it’s just that we have convinced ourselves it’s the stuff of evil.

Ok, so no one wants to be wandering around looking like they’ve just been hosed down by a fireman, and no one wants to stink all afternoon just because they took their bike to the shops, but to know sweat is – if not to love it – then at least to fear it a little bit less.

So what’s the (g)lowdown on sweat?

Basically, sweating is our body’s way of regulating temperature. We each have 2-5 million sweat glands dotted around our bodies, and they release the damp mixture of proteins, salt and water onto our skin. The process of this liquid evaporating is what cools us down – as you’ll know if you’ve ever got off a crowded bus and felt your top clinging to you like an ice sheath as you hit the cold outdoors.

Despite what we think, there aren’t more sweat glands in, um, ‘moist’ places like our armpits or our groin – it’s just that those areas are harder to get air circulating around to evaporate the liquid. And not all sweat glands are the same, either. Most are ‘eccrine’ sweat glands, which are kicked into action by excess heat, but some are ‘apocrine’ ones, which are stimulated by emotional responses like stress or excitement. Weirdly, that sweat actually smells a little different from the stuff prompted by eccrine glands.

But the weirdest fact is that sweat itself doesn’t actually smell at all. Ok maybe if you had 10 garlic cloves in your dinner you might smell a bit like a French bistro in the morning, but the smell we associate with sweat is actually the bacteria on our skin breaking down the acids in our sweat. Its medical term is bromhidrosis and it’s totally normal. But if you want to get rid of the sweaty pong, the simplest way is to get in the shower: if you’ve got the post-sport sweat off your skin within an hour or so of exercising, that bromhidrosis isn’t going to be wafting around after you all day. If you wait till bedtime to get clean, it just might.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

What else can we do to master this soggy mistress? Well, not that much, but perhaps that is because we need sweat.

And we really do. Why else do we feel so great after a good run, a dance-off in our bedroom or even a chance to sit in the sauna at the gym? Because sweating flushes out loads of the crud on our skin’s surface, cools us down so we don’t pass out at the gym or on the bus, as well as letting us know if something serious is up in terms of illness.

So while we needn’t commit to a lifetime of honking up every small room we enter, we shouldn’t be ashamed of the odd bit of sweat either. After all, look at how many advertising images have artfully sprayed ‘sexy’ sweat onto both men and women, how proud athletes look at their sweat as they finish an event – or even how nice it feels to know that our body, without even being asked, is doing exactly what it needs to.

Now if only we could do the same for our feelings, we’d be sorted.

@Hemmo

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Image: Amber Griffin

Cystitis is a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) – aka “owww, it burns when I pee” or “I’ve been on the loo so long, maybe I should move the TV into the bathroom?”

Basically this means your bladder is inflamed, which happens when rogue bacteria finds its way into your bladder through the urethra.

The soul singer?

No that’s Aretha. Your urethra is the tiny tube your pee travels down – though like Ms Franklin, it also deserves R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Feeling the burn…

The most common symptoms of a UTI are a burning, stinging sensation in your bladder and the desperate urge to pee more frequently. You might also have pee that’s darker or cloudier than normal, aches and pains in your lower abdomen and general fluey tiredness.

Some lucky people never experience it at all, but if you have, the first thing to say is: don’t worry. Cystitis is super common and generally nothing to worry about at all. The second thing to say is: poor you. Because while it might not be serious, it sure ain’t fun.

But isn’t cystitis… er, a sex thing?

NOPE. Or at least, not always. One of the most popular misconceptions about UTIs is that they’re only caught via sex (hence cystitis sometimes being referred to in an embarrassing, nudge-nudge-wink-wink way as ‘the honeymoon disease’) but the truth is they can be triggered by plenty of things, at any age, whether or not you’re sexually active. So it’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed to tell someone about – or text for help from your bathroom throne.

Causes of cystitis can include: wiping your bum from back to front, chemical irritants like scented shower gel and bubble bath, inserting tampons messily, not emptying your bladder fully, tight jeans or pants, dehydration or holding your wee in for too long. And yes, sex too. Friction around your pee hole is the most common way for bacteria to find its way in.

TL;DR? What is Cystitis - the important stuff:
  • Cystitis is a type of urinary tract infection, which can occur when bacteria gets into your bladder.
  • The most common symptoms are burning, stinging feeling when you pee, and the urge to pee more frequently than usual. Ow.
  • Scented products, wiping back to front, holding your bladder and friction from tight clothes can all cause cystitis – not just sex.
  • Drinking lots of water, going to the loo and taking painkillers will often get rid of it, but your GP can prescribe antibiotics in more severe cases.

Boys and men can also get cystitis, but girls and women are much more prone to it because our urethra is shorter and everything’s a bit more crowded down there. Cheers for that design feature, Mother Nature.

How do I fight the fire?

With fire! No, we’re kidding. That has basically never been good advice.

It might feel as though you’re never going to be able to get off the toilet, but don’t panic – most bouts of cystitis clear up within a day or two, if you catch them. The best way to treat it is to drink lots of water, and keep going to the loo regularly until the urge passes.

Painkillers such as Ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease the pain (ask an adult and follow the packet instructions) or a hot water bottle between your legs might help soothe things too.

You can also take over-the-counter powder to help relieve the symptoms (it’s not a taste sensation, you’ve been warned), while many people swear by drinking cranberry juice to help cure and prevent UTIs. Doctors are dubious about whether it actually works, though, and downing a bucketful of juice can just add ‘stomach ache’ to your sufferings.

What if it won’t go away?

If the symptoms don’t ease up or feel like they’re getting worse, head straight to the doctor. They can prescribe antibiotics to clear things up and make sure the infection doesn’t travel into your kidneys (ouch).

A GP can also help if you find you’re getting cystitis all the time – it may be common, but that doesn’t mean you have to just put up with it.

How can I stop it happening again?

The good news is that once you’ve done battle, the fire-breathing UTI dragon is fairly easy to keep at bay.

The best ways to prevent cystitis are through drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding harsh perfumed products near your vagina, always wiping from front to back to avoid transferring bacteria from your bum to urethra, and going to the loo as soon as you need it rather than holding your bladder (Netflix has a pause button for a reason, guys).  You might find avoiding tight jeans and underwear helps too.

And a note for the future…

If/when you’re ready to have sex, peeing immediately afterwards is the most effective way to prevent cystitis. It’s almost never shown on TV or in films but believe us – all over the world, cystitis-prone women are leaping from bed and racing cheerfully to the toilet.

So it’s NBD?

Nope! Just an big ol’ pain in the… bladder.

Find out more from the NHS here.

Illustration: Katie Edmunds

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It’s perfectly natural to feel panicked in certain situations. Sometimes life can be a bit panicky. When you’re late to an appointment and there’s a red light; when you can’t remember where you put your mum’s favourite necklace; when you are watching literally any episode of Pretty Little Liars.

But a panic attack is something else, something next-level – a very real, physical reaction to what’s going on in your mind. Put simply, panic attacks are when that feeling of ‘Oh my god, something awful is about to happen,’ spreads throughout your body and makes it hard to continue with your day.

What do panic attacks look like?

During a panic attack, you may feel like you can’t breathe or you are going to be sick. Some people describe feeling like they’re having a heart attack, or the frantic need to escape whatever place or situation you’re in.

Physically, you might feel like your heart is beating weirdly or really fast. You may also feel hot and sweaty, or shaky and weak in your legs. Some people experience blurry vision, or a sensation that their surroundings feel strange and distant.

Panic attacks normally last between five and 20 minutes. Part of what makes panic attacks so frightening is how quickly they come on and how intense the symptoms can feel. However, it’s important to remember that panic attacks can’t cause any physical harm. We’ll say it again: they can’t cause you any physical harm. So that’s one less thing to worry about.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Panic attacks are when that feeling of “Oh my god, something awful is about to happen,” spreads throughout your body and makes it hard to continue with your day.
  • Symptoms include: feeling sick or short of breath, feeling like you're having a heart attack, feeling hot and sweaty, shaky or weak in your legs, blurry vision, feeling the need to escape, or the sensation that your surroundings feel strange.
  • Panic attacks normally last between five and 20 minutes. The symptoms can feel intensely real and scary, although they can’t actually cause any physical harm.
  • Breathing exercises, listening to music, exercising or keeping a diary can all help, and so can talking to your doctor.

What causes panic attacks?

The exact cause isn’t understood. Sigh.

For some people, there are places or situations that can trigger a panic attack, whereas other people will experience them at random. They go hand-in-hand with anxiety, although not everyone who has a panic attack has anxiety disorder, and vice versa. But whatever the cause, they’re common. About one in 10 people experience panic attacks, and they effect twice as many women as men (cool thnx, patriarchy). 

Are they treatable?

Yes. The worst thing about panic attacks is that you can talk and think yourself into them – but that’s also kind of the best thing, because it means you can talk and think yourself out them too.

Obviously, this sort of mental gymnastics can be incredibly difficult, but it’s definitely possible. There are a lots small things you can do that can make a huge difference; talk to someone you trust, try some breathing exercises, listen to music, exercising or even keeping a diary. And beyond that, talking therapies with a mental health professional can give you coping strategies to keep panic at bay. 

When should I go to the doctor?

If your panic attacks are frequent, linked to general feelings of anxiety, or just making life difficult, it’s always a good idea to have a chat to your GP about what they recommend.

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

You know when you wait ages for a bus and then three come along all at once? Well, that’s how becoming a teen felt for me.

I had found primary school easy. I had lots of friends, exams were a breeze and I never really thought about how I looked. But then lots of things came along all at once.

My parents had never got on well, but suddenly they were fighting so much more. I had my first crush, but he didn’t like me back. I started my period, but had a lot of painful cramps. My friends were arguing and taking time off school to go to the park. And to top it all off, I was finding it really difficult that everyone else in my class — not to mention everyone else on the planet — seemed to have big boobs and mine felt tiny in comparison.

So much had happened in one go that I didn’t know how to deal with it. It’s easy to pick up one or two Maltesers when they’ve fallen out of the packet, isn’t it? But what about when the whole packet falls on the floor? Well, you either start picking them up… or you don’t pick them up at all.

That’s what I did. Instead of coping with one thing at a time, I felt really overwhelmed. It was like a big, sad cloud was following me around and raining on me all of the time. I tried to hide it and pretend my parents breaking up wasn’t a big deal really or I didn’t even want to have boobs and look like the girls in the magazines. But deep down I was overwhelmed. And the worst part was that I thought other people could tell. This meant I did less and less. I didn’t want to socialise with my friends or get dressed up because I thought I was just a quiet, sad girl to them.

I didn’t really know where these feelings were coming from, either. I thought everyone else was dealing with things a lot better than me — and that I should be happy. After all, I got good grades, I had friends, I had a mum who was just absolutely ace. All I really needed at the time was someone to tell me that it’s ok to feel sad and confused sometimes when you hit your teens. Worrying about your body when it’s going through puberty and changing so much is really natural. Getting sad about your parents arguing would probably even make Beyoncé want a good cry. And feeling unsettled when friends were falling out and crushes wouldn’t text back? Well, that was something everyone was going through too.

But it felt like just me.

One day I remember feeling so trapped and sad that I just ran outside to get away from everything. As simple as that. I ran and I kept running. And suddenly my heart was beating faster, I could feel the wind against my face, I was breathing normally, I was holding my head up high, I wasn’t caring about how my body looked. I felt free.

More importantly, I felt happy.

Happy that I could make a decision to get outside when it felt like life was too much, that I could make my body work for me, that I could feel a surge of happy exercise endorphins in my blood and that I could breathe free and easy rather than feeling panicky and nervous.

I’d always loved to exercise when I was growing up. But PE lessons had sucked all of the fun out of running and climbing and dancing around — all of the things I loved when I was young. Team sports felt so boring and fake to me. But discovering running for myself felt like I had opened up a brand new world.

From then on, anytime a sad or nervous or “I’m rubbish!” feeling came along, I’d decide not to let it take over. Instead, I put on my trainers and went outside. Taking some time out of each day to do something for me, how I wanted to do it, in the way I wanted to do it felt really good. It didn’t stop the sad feelings, it didn’t make my parents get back together or magically grow me a huge pair of boobs to make all of the other girls in my class jealous. But it made things feel easier, happier and somehow just a little bit lighter. Because I was proving to myself that I was stronger than my sad thoughts.

It doesn’t always work, though. Sometimes I don’t go running. Sometimes I still sit inside and forget how nice it feels. Sometimes lots of sad feelings still come along. But that’s a natural part of being me.

And years later, I still run and it’s still the best medicine for when I’m feeling sad and when things get too overwhelming. I’ve not trained for a marathon, I don’t spend a lot of my money on fancy running clothes or run a lot of races for charity. But I do feel like I have a secret weapon for whenever life gets a bit too much.

@BeccaCaddy

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Image: Manjit Thapp