From the 1st until the 7th of March 2021, it is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. In the UK, 1.25 million people are living with an eating disorder, but it’s not just the person living with the condition that suffers but their loved ones too.
Eating Disorders Awareness Week aims to raise awareness, it’s run by the charity BEAT and runs during the first week of March.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that characteristically involve disordered or muddled eating habits. These habits can include eating large quantities of food at once, restricting the amount of food they eat or getting rid of the food they’ve eaten or a mix of all these behaviours.
Eating disorders are not just about food, but also about the feelings. The way an individual relates to food may make them feel more in control or feel they are able to cope better. There are approximately 1.25 million people in the UK living with an eating disorder, and one quarter of those are men.
What are the different types of eating disorder?
There are many different types of eating disorder. Here we cover some of them with some signs and symptoms.
Anorexia is a condition where the individual will try to keep their weight as low as possible. They may view themselves as overweight when they may be harmfully thin. The individual may be fearful of gaining weight and be dismissive of any help to encourage them to put weight on.
Bulimia has unhealthy eating patterns. It may be that the individual will eat a lot of food and then take drastic action to prevent weight gain such as inducing vomiting, using laxatives or over exercising.
People living with Bulimia usually have an average body weight so it can be difficult for people to notice there is a problem.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a condition where the person will eat lots of food in a short time. They often won’t feel in control of their eating and feel distressed.
What should I do if I think I have an eating disorder?
If you think you have an eating disorder, ask for help as you have a much better chance of recovery if it is treated early. Firstly, you should make an appointment with a GP and they will be able to refer you to a specialist.
If you feel you aren’t ready to seek professional help, try confiding in someone you trust. There are also charity organisations who can offer confidential advice such as BEAT.
Eating Disorders Awareness week is about raising awareness of these conditions and to dispel the myths associated with them. Eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental illness. One fifth of people diagnosed will die prematurely from the physical symptoms or because of suicide. It is so important that we are aware of eating disorders, especially as 1 in 20 people will develop an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. Having the correct support available to these individuals is essential.