Weighty problems

Eating Disorders Awareness Week last month revealed shocking statistics through the Beat and Young Scot websites.

More than half those surveyed (500-plus) said they didn’t know how to talk about their disorder.

At the start of the week Beat, the UK’s leading charity supporting those affected by eating disorders and campaigning on their behalf, published the results of a survey of nearly 1,000 people with direct experience of the illnesses.

z 56 per cent didn’t tell anyone about their eating disorder because they didn’t know how to talk about it

z 64 per cent waited longer than six months before confiding in someone

z 87 per cent didn’t seek medical help when they first realised they had a problem

“I hate that I feel ashamed, because it’s an illness just like any other, and just like any other illness you don’t choose it, it chooses you,” said one response.

The two best-known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

People with anorexia are convinced that they are overweight and starve themselves to lose weight, even when they are dangerously thin – one per cent of young women have anorexia, and they tend to become so obsessed with food and weight that they don’t understand what’s normal and healthy anymore.

Anorexics can also become obsessed by exercise.

About four per cent of young women have bulimia nervosa – they appears to eat normally but binge on and then immediately make themselves sick. It’s usually a release because the person feels overwhelmed by their problems.

Other eating disorders include binge eating disorder, where you binge on lots of food but don’t do anything to get rid of it afterwards. Compulsive overeating is where you eat lots when you are not hungry. Both are serious and need to be treated professionally.

Often eating disorders are about needing to feel in control of something, because there are other problems in your life, such as a family breakdown, a bereavement, abuse or stress at school.

Treatment can take several years because often people with eating disorders don’t think there is anything wrong with them – or they relapse and need more treatment. It isn’t something you can tackle on your own and professional help is vital. Often anorexics are in hospital because they are dangerously underweight and suffering serious health problems as a result.

Treatment includes getting back to a normal weight and eating a healthy amount. Counselling and therapy tackle problems that have sparked the disorder, and sometimes medication is given to help with depression or anxiety.

Sometimes people assume that only girls are affected by eating disorders, but guys can get them too – visit www.MenGetEatingDisordersToo.co.uk to find out more.

Beat said: “We all need to break the silence about eating disorders so that sufferers come forward, loved ones can approach those they are concerned about, and everyone is aware of the illnesses. The more people talk about eating disorders in an understanding way, the more those affected will feel they can reach out for support.”

Beat’s call to action is to get people to speak up about eating disorders. No-one should face an eating disorder on their own. Break the silence and talk about eating disorders at school, at home, in the workplace.

If you think you or someone you care for may be suffering from an eating disorder and you would like further information or support you can visit www.b-eat.co.uk. You can become a member for free. They also offer One2One, where you can chat online to an advisor for help and support.

Beat has a helpline for young people. Call 0845 6347650 (Monday to Friday, 4.30-8.30pm; Saturday 1-4.30pm). If you want them to call you back, text “callback” and your name to 07786 201820.

And your doctor will be able to offer you information and support in your local area.