Eating Disorders are some of the most common mental health disorders in our society, yet also some of the most misunderstood. Common misconceptions often center around the belief that eating disorders only effect females and is born usually from the desire to be thin. The national eating disorder charity Beat describes Eating Disorders as ‘a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. They are serious mental illnesses and include Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of their age, sex or cultural background. Statistically young women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, particularly those aged 12 to 20, but older women and men of all ages can also have an eating disorder. Children as young as seven can develop Anorexia and there is a greater proportion of boys in this younger age group.
The serious nature and consequences of having an eating disorder is often overlooked however Beat reports that eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental illness – one in five of the most seriously affected will die prematurely from the physical consequences or suicide.’
Types of eating disorders
The most common types of eating disorder and their main characterisations are:
|When a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively.||When a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives to try and control their weight.|
|Binge Eating Disorder (BED)||Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)|
|When a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time.||A person whose symptoms either do not meet all the criteria for one specific disorder, or are a mixture of several. EDNOS is no less serious than a specified eating disorder.|
There can be many symptoms for eating disorders that go beyond a low body weight. The charity Eating Disorder Support provides a comprehensive list of the main ones.
If someone you know has an eating disorder
Eating Disorders can profoundly affect a sufferer’s behaviour and cause them to isolate themselves from family and friends making relationships difficult to maintain. A person with an eating disorder will usually need professional help to recover, but the support of the people around them can go a long way to help. You can best equip yourself to help someone by learning about eating disorders.
The eating disorder charity Beat has a very informative section of its website dedicated to what to do if you’re worried about someone.
If you have (or believe you may have) an eating disorder
Coming to the realisation that you have an eating disorder and may need help can be very difficult. The nature of eating disorders often causes the sufferer to be convinced that there is nothing wrong with them and to do their utmost to convince the people around them of this too.
After being able to admit to having a problem, the next challenge is taking the opportunity to get help. Fortunately, in the UK there is a wide range of resources and support networks for sufferers of eating disorders.
|Beat – The UK’s eating disorder charity
|Adult helpline: 0345 634 1414 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(The Beat Adult Helpline is open to anyone over 18)
Youth helpline: 0345 634 7650 Email: email@example.com
(The Beat Youthline is open to anyone under 18. Parents, teachers or any concerned adults should call the adult helpline)
Helplines are open 1pm – 4pm Monday to Friday.
|Men get eating disorders too
|A charity for men with eating disorders and their families and carers.|
|Anorexia & bulimia Care||Care, emotional support and guidance for sufferers from Anorexia and Bulimia.|
|Overeaters Anonymous||A charity that offers support to people with compulsive overeating disorders.|
|British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy||A professional body designed to help people find the right therapist.|