Eating Disorders kill more people than any other mental health condition!
However, full recovery is entirely possible.
I know because I beat Anorexia!
If ED affects your life, please take 1 minute to read this article. It might just be the best thing you ever did!
What does ED look like?
Let us get one thing straight, weight is not an indication for the severity of an eating disorder. It is merely an indicator as to whether clinical interventions are required. Many of the people I know who struggle with severe eating disorders receive very little support because they are managing to maintain a weight that does not fall into the danger zone.
Weight however, it not really an indication of health. The damage caused by eating disorders can be irreparable, not only physically but mentally too.
Not everyone who suffers disordered eating has an Eating Disorder. The most common diagnosed eating disorders are Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Bulimia, Anorexia. However, there are other specified feeding and eating disorders. Although the stats vary, BEAT charity estimate that 1.25 million people in the UK have a diagnosable eating disorder. BED affects three times the number of people diagnosed with severe anorexia and bulimia combined. Predominantly, sufferers are women and girls, all be it, there has been a steady increase in men and boys being diagnosed with ED, particularly BED.
Eating Problems/Disordered Eating can include Emotional Eating, Yo Yo dieting, Orthorexia (Obsession with healthy eating). Eating problems can be a symptom of other MH conditions.
Some people can suffer more than one ED in their lifetime. However, it is possible to fully recover from an Eating Disorder.
What are the signs of Eating Disorders and What Causes Them?
If you are worried about you or someone you love might be suffering from an Eating Disorder or Eating Problem, here are some signs to look out for.
• restrict the amount of food you eat
• eat more than you need, or feel out of control when you eat
• eat in secret and fear eating in public
• feel very anxious about eating or digesting food
• eat in response to difficult emotions without feeling physically hungry
• stick to a rigid set of diet rules or certain foods
• feel anxious and upset if you have to eat something else
• do things to get rid of what you eat, sometimes known as purging
• feel disgusted at the idea of eating certain foods
• eat things that aren't really food, such as dirt, soap or paint
• feel scared of certain types of food
• think about food and eating a lot, even all the time
• compare your body to other people's and think a lot about its shape or size
• check, test and weigh your body very often
• base your self-worth on your weight, or whether you pass your checks and tests.
What causes Eating Disorders? - These are just a few contributing factors:
• Adverse Childhood Experiences
• Family Problems
• Societal Pressures
• Other Health and Mental Health Conditions
• Biological and Genetic Factors
How might eating problems affect my life?
Eating problems are not just about food. They can be about difficult things and painful feelings. You may be finding these hard to express, face or resolve.
Focusing on food can be a way of hiding these feelings and problems, even from yourself. Eating problems can affect you in lots of ways.
You might feel:
• depressed and anxious
• tired a lot of the time
• ashamed or guilty
• scared of other people finding out.
You might find that:
• it's hard to concentrate on your work, studies or hobbies
• controlling food or eating has become the most important thing in your life
• it's hard to be spontaneous, to travel or to go anywhere new
• your appearance is changing or has changed
• you are bullied or teased about food and eating
• you develop short- or long-term physical health problems
• you want to avoid socialising, dates and restaurants or eating in public
• you have to drop out of school or college, leave work or stop doing things you enjoy.
With friends, family or other people, you might feel that:
• you're distant from those who don't know how you feel, or who are upset they can't do more to help
• they focus a lot on the effect eating problems can have on your body
• they only think you have a problem if your body looks different to how they think it should be
• they sometimes comment on your appearance in ways you find difficult
• they don't really understand how complicated things are for you.
Recovering from eating problems:
It can feel very challenging to live with eating problems, as well as starting to recover. You have to think about food daily and live in your changing body. But there are ways to help yourself cope with these challenges.
Thinking about recovery.
Recovery means different things to different people. It might mean that you never have thoughts or behaviours related to your eating problem again.
Or you might still experience thoughts and behaviours, but not as often. They might also have less impact on your life.
The way you perceive your relationship with food, and your views on recovery, might change over time.
Whatever recovery looks like to you, it can take a long time to get there – even when you feel ready to try. You may have to think in years rather than weeks and months.
If you have tried to recover before, or have relapsed, you might start feeling like you're completely beyond help. But it is possible to feel better, even if it takes a long time.
Supporting loved ones.
At first, you might just want to show the person you're here for them and you support them.
Try to be considerate of the following:
• Let them know you are there. Make sure the person knows you’re here to listen and can help them find support. This is one of the most important things you can do. Let them know they can talk to you when they're ready.
• Try not to get angry or frustrated. They might already feel guilty about how their behaviour is affecting you. Try to be as understanding and patient as you can.
• Don't make assumptions. Try not to interpret what their eating problem means without listening to them. This could add to their feelings of helplessness. It could also make them less able to share their difficult emotions and seek support.
The First Step to Recovery
Taking the first step to recovery can feel overwhelming. Often acknowledging there is a problem and accepting you need help can be the biggest hurdles. It is ok to find this hard. If it feels too difficult to ask for help right now, please click on the links below to get a better understanding of what might be going on for you or the person you love. There is a great deal of research that tells us that to create change, there are steps we must take. One of those is to gain knowledge and understanding of our issue. Knowledge and understanding can lead to exploring options for treatment, which can lead to taking action. One this I have learned from my own experience with Anorexia, is that there are a million steps to recovery, the best thing you can do, is focus on the next step, then the next and then the next. If we stand at the bottom of a mountain staring at the summit, it’s easy to give up before we have even started.
Where can you get advice and guidance: