Whether you’ve suffered from an eating disorder yourself or know someone who has, knowing the signs and how you can help yourself or someone else to deal with this complex tangle of illnesses could spare a great deal of pain, or even save a life.
Eating disorders are often misunderstood. Saying, “well just eat something” will exacerbate the problem and distance the sufferer from their friends and family. Arm yourself with some facts, figures and resources and you’ll have a better idea of how to move forwards.
- 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder
- 11% of the 1.6 million are male
- 14-25 year olds are most affected by an eating disorder
- There are up to 18 new cases of bulimia per 100,000 population per year
- 1 in 100 women aged between 15 and 30, are affected by anorexia
- 10% of people affected by an eating disorder are anorexic
- 40% of people affected by an eating disorder are bulimic
What causes eating disorders?
There is no single trigger for an eating disorder. What sparks one into life depends on the individual, and there can be many influencing factors. Some of these may include:
We’re all surrounded by a social media populated with fake, Photoshop-enhanced celebrity bodies. This, and a fashion industry that uses ‘Size 0’ female models and pumped-up male models to showcase designer clothes, promotes the lie that the only body to have is an ‘ideal’ one. Although this is slowly changing with ‘Supersize models’ including size-16 Ashley Graeme, in the meantime we’re all fighting this attitude.
In some cases, if family members have previously suffered from an eating disorder it can be an indicator that another may suffer themselves. It is important to remember that this is not necessarily the case, however.
Insecurity and a feeling of isolation that some teenagers feel can sometimes manifest itself in an eating disorder.
How can you help yourself or someone you know?
If you’re worried about a friend or family member, talk to them in private and don’t place judgement on them. Just make them aware you’re there for them, even if they do at first act defensively.
- Prepare what to say.
- Don’t blame or judge.
- Concentrate on how they’re feeling.
- Stay calm.
- Have resources to refer to.
- Be prepared for a negative response.
There are many support groups out there, they only want the best for you and will give you that helping hand. Many can be found online and are very easy to access
Depending how brave you feel, you can contact your doctor and have a proper chat about all the options available. If this feels like too much of a big step you could first speak to a close friend or family member first.
The most important thing is to make sure you or your friend never feel alone. It is possible to make a full recovery from an eating disorder.
For help, please contact: