This week – 25th Feb to the 3rd March – is Eating Disorder Awareness week.
Do you know that it is believed that 1.6 million people in the UK have an eating disorder? This number may even be higher as many people are reluctant to come forward and seek the help they need.
What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are very complex mental health conditions and they are on the increase. More well-known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorders. There are also newer, less heard of ones, such as orthorexia and diabulimia, that fall in a category called “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED). These disorders are no less serious – it just means that these eating disorders don’t exactly match the list of symptoms a specialist will check to make a diagnosis.
Someone has an eating disorder when they have obsessive, unhealthy eating behaviour. This might mean eating very little or very large amounts of foods at once (also known as binge eating), purging (i.e. making themselves sick, misusing laxatives, fasting or forcing themselves to exercise excessively). In an eating disorder this behaviour does not stand on its own but is very closely associated with a person’s emotions. Someone’s relationship with food may make them feel better able to cope or make them feel in control.
There are common misconceptions surrounding eating disorders. Some of these are:
* Eating disorders always develop in adolescence – this is not always the case, some eating disorders have been seen in children as young as 6 and people as old as 70.
* Eating disorders are not that serious. Eating disorders can last for years and can be debilitating for the sufferer and family and friends around them. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental health conditions.
* Eating disorders are a “female” condition – recent research shows that there are growing numbers of males seeking help for eating disorders.
Why does someone develop an eating disorder?
There are many different reasons that someone may develop an eating disorder, and in many cases, there is more than one factor that has been involved in the forming of someone’s eating disorder. Some of the following factors may make someone more susceptible to developing an eating disorder however there is no one size fits all cause for an eating disorder. Some factors include having a family history of an eating disorder, drug addiction, depression or alcohol abuse, having an unhealthy obsession with being slim or being repeatedly criticised by others for your eating habits, body shape or weight, having been sexually abused.
Treatment for eating disorders differ depending on the type of eating disorder and the individual. The important thing to remember is that is doesn’t matter when you start
treatment however the sooner you start the better your outcomes will be. For more specific details on treatment please visit https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/recovery-information/help-treatment
What are the warning signs of an eating disorder?
* dramatic weight loss and wearing loose clothing to hide this
* lying about how much and when they’ve eaten, or how much they weigh
* eating a lot of food very fast
* going to the bathroom a lot after eating
* excessively or obsessively exercising
* avoiding eating with others
* cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly
* changes in their behaviour
If you think you may have an eating disorder it is important to contact your GP as soon as possible, if they think you have an eating disorder you will be referred on to an eating disorder specialist. You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity BEAT by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.
For further information and in-depth reading please go to BEAT.
Sources used: Beat, NHS choices