Understanding Eating Disorders

 1st Jun 2017

For most their experience of eating disorders is limited to what they see on weekday soap operas which does nothing to communicate not just the complexities of living with an eating disorder or the range of disorders individuals struggle with.

In reality there are over 725,000 people in the UK with eating disorders which include:

  • Anorexia
  • Bulimia
  • Binge eating disorder (BED)
  • Emotional Overeating
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
  • Disordered eating / eating problems

What are eating disorders?

The nature and causes of eating disorders vary but all represent a serious mental health issue.

Eating disorders are complex because there isn’t a catch all cause and not everyone will have the same set of symptoms although there are a number of common signs to look out for.

The causes can be genetic, environmental, social or psychological.

For some eating disorders are ways of asserting control over their lives if they are experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health issues in a similar way to others self-harming.

However, although eating disorders are serious and can lead to death, they are all treatable and given enough time individuals make a full recovery.

Who gets eating disorders?

Absolutely anyone.

Just like any mental health issue, no one is immune from developing an eating disorder.

Young women between the ages of 12 and 20 are more likely to develop an eating disorder but older women and men of all ages can also develop issues. There are recorded instances of children as young as 7 developing Anorexia.

Tragically, eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental illness. One in five people amongst the most seriously affected will die resulting from physical consequences or suicide.

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Spotting the Symptoms

Whilst not all forms of eating disorder have the same symptoms, there are a number of core symptoms that someone may be exhibiting:

  • Obsessive behaviour about food
  • Rushing off to the bathroom after meals
  • Sudden and excessive exercising
  • Low energy and poor concentration
  • Poor self-image/distorted views of their body
  • Changes in behaviour

There are internationally agreed criteria to make diagnosis easier as without a diagnosis accessing treatment is impossible. This is done by gathering an oral history of the patient as well as physical examination.

Treatment can take some time and is a gradual process of therapies and physical rehabilitation.

As a concerned party the most helpful thing you can do is be understanding and supportive, contact services like ours or your GP for guidance and next steps.

It’s incredibly important never to force food on the individual as this deepens the fear/hatred of eating.

Whilst it’s hard to sit back and watch a loved one deteriorate, encouraging them to access services is a far better solution.

There are plenty of services available to help individuals who face these challenges. If you need support locating these services or would like to discuss accessing one of our services, contact us today.

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