Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Article published at: Agora London Feb 27, 2024
Eating Disorders Awareness Week
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A Conversation on Self-Care 

Have you ever wondered how our connection with a simple slice of pizza can turn into a tangled web of thoughts? This week as we celebrate Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we will explore the intricate realm of eating disorders. 

Let’s start by gaining an understanding of what exactly an eating disorder entails.

Understanding Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a mental health issue characterised by using food control as a coping mechanism for emotions and various situations. Unhealthy eating behaviours encompass overeating, undereating, or excessive concern about weight and body shape. Although anyone can develop an eating disorder, teenagers and young adults are more commonly affected. It's important to note that eating disorders are intricate conditions that vary for each individual.

Eating disorders  have claimed more lives than any other mental health condition, and regrettably, their occurrence is on the rise. In the past three to four decades, the prevalence of eating disorders has surged, transforming into a pervasive issue both in the UK and globally.

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are some of the most prevalent eating disorders.

Recognising the Signs 

If you or those around you are concerned about a potentially unhealthy relationship with food, it could be indicative of an eating disorder. Keep an eye out for common symptoms such as:

  • Eating very little or consuming large amounts of food uncontrollably and rapidly.
  • Experiencing changes in mood, including anxiety, depression, or withdrawal.
  • Noticing physical signs like feeling constantly cold, tired, or dizzy, experiencing digestive problems, or having a weight that is unusually high or low for your age and height.
  • Feeling your heart racing , fainting or feeling faint
  • Not getting your period or other delayed signs of puberty
  • Spending a significant amount of time preoccupied with worries about body weight and shape.
  • Following strict habits, rituals, or routines related to food.
  • Engaging in harmful behaviours such as inducing vomiting or using laxatives after eating.
  • Retreating from social groups, hobbies, or family life.
  • Avoiding social situations involving food.

What causes eating disorders?

There is no single cause of eating disorders. Many specialists believe they develop due to a combination of factors. These include:

  • physiological/biological factors –  family background or changes  in brain and hormonal activity.
  • psychological factors –  lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem or exhibiting perfectionist tendencies.
  • social factors -  bullying, difficulties with school , work, or  experiences of abuse.

Eating Disorder Statistics: A Call to Action

Let's dive into some eye-opening UK statistics on eating disorders, courtesy of Beat and Anorexia and Bulimia Care:

  • Between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK grapple with the challenges of an eating disorder.
  • Shockingly, approximately 75% of those affected by eating disorders are female.
  • While most eating disorders emerge during adolescence, they can also surface in children as young as 6 and persist into adulthood, even affecting individuals in their 70s.
  • Among those dealing with an eating disorder, 40% are wrestling with the complexities of bulimia nervosa.
  • Perhaps most alarming is the fact that eating disorders boast the highest mortality rates among psychiatric disorders, underscoring the urgent need for awareness, understanding, and effective treatment.

What treatments are available?

Treating eating disorders involves various approaches, and the most suitable one for you depends on the type and severity of your disorder, along with your personal circumstances and preferences.

Talking therapy is a common method, where during regular sessions, you will discuss your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours with a mental health professional. Different types of talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), family therapy, or psychotherapy, are available for managing eating disorders.

During therapy, you may develop an eating plan to ensure you receive the necessary nutrients. If you've been underweight for an extended period, your GP might conduct an X-ray to evaluate your bone health.

Individuals dealing with bulimia or binge eating disorder may be provided with a supervised self-assistance program. This entails participating in activities within a workbook while engaging in concise sessions with a professional. It's a personalised strategy designed to address your specific requirements.

Embracing Support

If you suspect you could be dealing with an eating disorder, get in touch with your GP. Although your GP might not have expertise in treating eating disorders, they can assess the situation and guide you towards specialised services for eating disorders.

Understanding and addressing eating disorders is a crucial step towards fostering mental and physical well-being. Whether you are personally navigating this journey or supporting someone who is, it's essential to recognise that help is available. By shedding light on the complexities of eating disorders, we aim to break down stigmas, encourage open conversations, and promote a compassionate approach to mental health. Remember, seeking professional guidance is a strength, and recovery is a journey worth taking. 

As I conclude, know that you are not alone on this path to better health and wellness. Your journey is unique but together we form a community of strength and support.

Let’s thrive together,

Cristina x

Further resources and information:

NHS resources 



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