A major study by the Priory has revealed that millions of Britons, specially those aged 15-24, have food-related psychological problems

The model and socialite Lady Isabella Hervey suffered from bulimia in her late teens, and was treated for the illness as an outpatient at The Priory. Now 23 and fully recovered, Lady Isabella was last week unveiled as the face - and body - of television channel Playboy UK.

"It's very hard these days, and often it's not a body thing - the problem is an emotional one," Lady Isabella told The Independent on Sunday. "A lot of the time it's to do with pressure from families and a feeling of isolation. If you grow up feeling unloved it can lead to problems. If you have a close family, they can help - but if you don't have a close family it can all too easily slip into a downward spiral."

Lady Isabella, who recently appeared on ITV1's Celebrity Love Island, spoke out this week about her own battle against an eating disorder in an attempt to show other young sufferers that they are not alone - and that conditions such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia can be overcome with the right support. At her lowest point, Lady Isabella admitted she would gorge on £10 worth of chocolate bars or pizza straight from the freezer - and even ate bags of dog biscuits when she couldn't find anything else.

"When I was bulimic, I actually put on weight," remembered Lady Isabella, who first checked into The Priory for the condition at the age of 18. "You do it because you feel very empty. There is often an emotional trigger, and you mistake it for hunger, but it's because you're very empty inside and you're trying to fill that void."

Lady Isabella, who used her love of sports such as squash, cross-country running and showjumping as a form of therapy when overcoming bulimia, said young men and women should be more aware of the strong links between emotional problems and eating disorders.

"You end up being bulimic because you hate yourself, and you punish yourself because of that," she said. "If people want to get over it, they first have to admit they have a problem."