Monday marks the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017. Did you know that a report conducted in 2015 discovered that there are an estimated 725,000 people in the UK suffering from an eating disorder. This could be anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder, to name the best known. Eating disorders are characterised by an unhealthy relationship with food and your own body, resulting in focusing excessively on weight or size. People with eating disorders go on to make unhealthy choices about food which can seriously damage their health, both physically and mentally.
The truth of the matter is, anyone can be at risk from developing an eating disorder. The group at the highest risk is young girls aged 12-20, however around 25% of all sufferers in the UK are male. A study by University College London, which surveyed 5000 women, found that around 3% of those with an active eating disorder were in their 40s or 50s.
Eating Disorders and Mental Health
Eating disorders are a form of mental health issue and are therefore often treated as such. As with any mental health illness, it is important to seek advice as soon as possible, whether you are the one suffering from the disorder or you know someone who is.
As with any mental health problem, the first port-of-call for a sufferer should be your GP. Your GP can help to determine whether you are definitely suffering from an eating disorder and if so, which type:
Anorexia Nervosa – A person with anorexia will try to keep their weight as low as possible and may do so through starving themselves or through excessive exercise.
Bulimia – This is characterised by periods of binge eating followed by making themselves sick or using laxatives to control their weight.
Binge Eating Disorder – Sufferers of this disorder feel compelled to eat excessive amounts of food in a short space of time.
If none of these specific disorders seem to collate with your own symptoms, that is not to say that you are not suffering from an eating disorder. Specialists realise that there are atypical eating disorders which cannot be easily categorised, and are otherwise known as EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified).
Your GP can talk you through weight anxieties, image or eating habits and may take blood tests to check that there are no other underlying problems. They may then go on to refer you to the appropriate service.
NHS Support Services and Treatment For Eating Disorders
Once you have spoken to your GP, they may feel the best course of action is to refer you to a eating disorders specialist who will be able to carry out assessments to establish which treatments might work best. Treatment could include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, psychotherapy, counselling, or medication.
Support Services and Charities
One of the main charities recommended by the NHS Choices website is Beat. For more information on eating disorders, services and research, you can visit their website b-eat.co.uk. They also have two helplines open 365 days a year between 4pm-10pm
Adult Helpline – 0345 634 1414
Youthline – 0345 634 7650
Email – [email protected]
ReThink Mental Illness is another charity which deals with eating disorders. Their website has a section of contacts for sufferers which include:
The National Centre for Eating Disorders, Surrey – 0845 838 2040 – Provide information and counselling on all aspects of eating disorders. Their centre is located at 54 New Road, Esher, Surrey.
Men Get Eating Disorders Too – Don’t think being a man means you can’t ask for help. This charity is focused on men who suffer from eating disorders, offering guidance, information and peer support. You can also email then at [email protected]
The Samaritans are another charity who are available 24/7 for care and support, whatever your problems may be. They can be contacted on 116 123.
Whoever you are, and whatever your age eating disorders must be taken seriously. The first step is to talk to someone about it, whether that be a friend or family member, your GP, or one of the helplines names above. There is no need to suffer alone. If you believe someone you know could be suffering from an eating disorder, you too can utilise the helplines above to find out what you can do to help.