This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Statistics show that 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder and it is suspected there any many more who go undiagnosed. Eating disorders are defined as a group of psychological disorders characterised by abnormal or disturbed eating behaviours.
Beat is the UK’s leading eating disorder charity. This year they’ve asking “why wait?”.
Research suggests it takes on average 149 weeks (almost 3 years!) for an individual to seek support for their eating disorder symptoms. Yet, the earlier an individual accesses support, the better chance they have of making a full recovering.
So what are the symptoms of eating disorders?
Well, first of all eating disorders can affect anyone of any age and any gender. A common misconception is that an individual has to be underweight. Around 80-85% of people with an eating disorder are not.
Sufferers may also present very private about their eating habits and reluctant to seek help. This can mean supporting them to access help even more challenging.
The 4 most common eating disorders include;
Symptoms of this eating disorder include individuals having low weight (although not necessarily underweight). This is a result of limiting their energy intake. They may do this either by restricting the food they eat, or engaging in excessive levels of exercise to burn the calories they’ve eaten.
This involves a loss of control over their eating habits. This includes eating large qualities of food over a short period of time. Not to be confused with “overindulging” on large portions of favourite foods. Instead binge eaters find their relationship with food unenjoyable and distressing, finding it difficult to stop eating even when they want to.
Symptoms of this type of eating disorder can include eating large quantities of food (bingeing). They then compensate for this by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, fasting or exercising excessively.
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OFSED)
Sometimes an individual’s eating habits may not fit the symptoms of the above eating disorders. However, this doesn’t mean their eating habits are any less concerning. They may present with a combination of symptoms from the above eating disorders, or may present completely differently. In this case they may be diagnosed with OFSED.
Knowing whether or not someone has an eating disorder can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. It is important to remember that people with an eating disorder aren’t just “fussy” with their food, but that they have a mental illness.
So, where can someone access support?
The first point of call would usually be a visit to the GP, but sometimes just getting there can be unnerving.
Beat have published various support advice for everyone. Whether you have an eating disorder yourself and are worried about telling other people. Whether you suspect a loved-one to have an eating disorder and are unsure how to support them. Whether you’re a teacher worried about a pupil or even an employer concerned about an employee.
They also have various online support groups aimed for both sufferers and carers. For those who prefer to talk rather than type, Beat also supports people over the phone via their helpline on 0808 801 0677 or their youthline on 0808 801 0711.
Helpfinder also provides a directory for eating disorder services for any local area.
You can also find more support details looking at; Support Series: Unhealthy Eating Practices.
In support of Beat’s Eating Disorder Week I’m going to “Sock it!”
Part of their campaign is asking individuals to ‘sock it to eating disorders’ by digging out their brightest & boldest socks and wearing these with pride whilst also donating to the organisation.
The aim of this is to aid their work in providing support to sufferers and loved-ones whilst also reducing stigma and tackling the barriers to accessing treatment.
Now why not get out yours?