Eating Disorders Awareness Week
This year, Eating Disorders Awareness Week falls on the 26th to 4th March and is organised by the eating disorder charity, Beat.
The aim of Eating Disorders Awareness Week
Eating Disorders Awareness Week aims to fight the myths and stigmas attached to eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder and other specified feeding and eating disorders. This year, Beat are asking the question, “Why Wait”? This highlights the length of time it takes (on average) for sufferers to seek help.
Beat estimate that 149 weeks will pass before the average person suffering from symptoms of an eating disorder seeks help. This is just under 3 years.
If someone with an eating disorder doesn’t get the required treatment, or any sort of help to reverse their eating habits, it can be detrimental to all areas of their life. It can affect relationships with friends and family, their job or school work and ultimately their general health. This makes the “Why Wait” theme extremely important, as we want to help them sooner, so the adverse effects on their day-to-day lives are limited.
What are Eating Disorders?
The NHS characterises an eating disorder as “an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour”.
Eating disorders often have underlying causes and can affect anyone of any age, but teenagers are more susceptible, as this stage is one of the biggest transitions faced in life. Hormone changes, lack of confidence, social media, and problems such as schoolwork or bullying, can all trigger them.
Effects of Eating Disorders in the UK
PwC estimated in 2015 that eating disorders cost the UK economy roughly £4.6 billion per year, highlighting the importance of tackling them sooner rather than later and helping people to overcome them.
Around 1.25 million people are affected by an eating disorder in the UK, and findings show that they’re more prevalent amongst women than men. Eating disorders can be extremely dangerous as they can lead to people being dangerously underweight and severely lacking in the nutrients required for the body to function on a day to day basis. To further underline this, Anorexia has the highest morbidity rate of any mental health issue. Therefore, it is extremely important that you can spot signs of an eating disorder, and you can find more information on this here.
The physical effects of an eating disorder can sometimes be fatal.
How can you treat Eating disorders?
The first step to treatment is the sufferer realising they have a problem and them wanting to try and get help for their disorder. Without that, it will be hard to get them to fully commit to the help they receive. Recovery can take a very long time and the support of friends and family is invaluable in the healing process.
The NHS suggests that the typical treatments that might be involved when treating an eating disorder include:
- using self-help manuals and books, possibly under guidance from a therapist or another healthcare professional
- cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – therapy that focuses on changing how a person thinks about a situation, which in turn will affect how they act
- interpersonal psychotherapy – a talking therapy that focuses on relationship-based issues
- dietary counselling – a talking therapy to help a person maintain a healthy diet
- psychodynamic therapy or cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) – therapy that focuses on how a person’s personality and life experiences influence their current thoughts, feelings, relationships and behaviour
- family therapy – therapy involving the family discussing how the eating disorder has affected them and their relationships
- medication – for example, a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used to treat bulimia nervosa or binge eating
These are the main types of treatment people can receive for an eating disorder, however, the NHS also recommend going to self-help groups and talking to people who also have eating disorders. This way people can hopefully overcome the condition together.
For more information please visit the NHS website.