Helen Sharpe

Senior Lecturer


I joined the University of Edinburgh in 2015 and I am a founding member of the Eating Disorders and Behaviours Research Group here in the School of Health in Social Science. I am interested in understanding the developmental risk processes that underpin eating disorders. My goal is that my research will ultimately allow us to intervene earlier and more effectively to prevent people getting ill and to help promote more rapid recovery. Alongside Prof. Ulrike Schmidt at KCL, I am co-PI of the EDIFY programme, a 4 year UKRI-funded programme of research focused on early intervention for eating disorders. You can find out more about EDIFY here: https://edifyresearch.co.uk/

In terms of my academic background, I began my studies with a focus in social and developmental psychology in the BA Social and Political Sciences programme at the University of Cambridge. I then took a brief diversion into philosophy by spending a year obtaining an MSc Philosophy of Mental Health, a programme that was run jointly by the Institute of Psychiatry and the Philosophy Department at King’s College London. With a hankering to return to psychology, I joined the Section of Eating Disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, where I completed my PhD between 2010 and 2013. My work focused on the prevention of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders in adolescents using interventions that could be delivered in schools. I remained with the Eating Disorder group for a further year, before moving north of the Thames to join the Evidence Based Practice Unit, a group that is jointly affiliated with the Anna Freud Centre and University College London. In this role, my focus was on intervention evaluation and the use of large existing datasets to examine risk and resilience in the development of mental health problems in young people. Finally, in 2015, I continued my northerly trajectory moving up to Edinburgh to join the Department of Clinical Psychology as a Lecturer (now Senior Lecturer). Here I work closely with colleagues across our Department and beyond in the field of body image, disordered eating and eating disorders.

Postgraduate teaching


  • I mostly teach on the MSc Applied Psychology for Children and Young People, with a focus on research dissertations.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am interested in hearing from potential PhD students who would like to explore questions about body image or disordered eating. We have an active research group on Eating Behaviours and Disorders in the Section and all doctoral students will be invited to join.

Research summary

I am interested in understanding the development of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating across childhood and adolescence, with a particular focus on the role that interpersonal factors may play in these difficulties. This involves both understanding the risk and resilience processes that lead to these difficulties and designing and testing interventions to help young people who are struggling with their body image or their eating.

My work involves collaborating with a number of different academic teams both within the UK and internationally, and working closely with clinicians and people working in schools. I am always happy to hear from people who want to find out more about this area of research, who would be interested in collaborating, or who might want to take part in any of our on-going studies. Please just send me an email on helen.sharpe@ed.ac.uk.

Current research interests

Body image; Disordered eating; Adolescent development; Early intervention

Knowledge exchange

I really enjoy talking about my research with the public and often host workshops/conferences for professionals who work with young people and want to know more about body image. I have worked together with the Government Equalities Office and Beat to write a toolkit about body image for those working with young people. You can access this toolkit here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/body-confidence-a-rapid-evidence-assessment-of-the-literature

Some of my work has received attention from the wider media. For example:

- You can see me talking about young women's engagement with sport and exercise at the Scottish Parliament here: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/young-women-lead-february-22-2019

- You can hear me talking about rising levels of mental health difficulties in girls on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05r0b39

- You can hear me talking about body image interventions in schools on BBC Radio 4's All in the Mind here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03kqg0f

I have also had the privilege of being involved in an award-winning piece of theatre by Caroline Horton. You can find out about any future tour dates and learn more about the show here: http://www.chinaplatetheatre.com/mess

View all 39 publications on Research Explorer