Tag Archives: eating disorders awareness week

Eating disorders pictogram

EDAW myth busting! #4

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and this year I’m taking some time to bust some myths!

Eating disorders only occur in young people

A YouGov poll commissioned by Beat found that 60% of respondents thought eating disorders predominantly affected young people. It is true that eating disorders occur in adolescents and children as young as 6 years old but the largest group of sufferers is adults.

A myth like this perpetuates the idea that eating disorders are a fad or a phase and that young people will grow out of it. This is harmful for young people, as it risks them not getting the full support they need but it also put adults at risk of not getting any support.

An adult may suffer a relapse or they may experience an eating disorder for the first time; triggering events may be parenting, work capabilities, relationships difficulties or bereavement. Specific difficulties may include events that target identity or changes in bodily appearance such as:

  • Pregnancy
  • Children leaving home (empty nest)
  • Slowing metabolism leading to weight gain (middle-aged spread)
  • Menopause
  • Retirement
  • Age related appetite decrease (important to differentiate biological causes from mental and emotional appetite decrease)
  • Physical illness (relationship between physical and mental illness can be complicate)

Co-morbid mental illnesss such as depression or anxiety are common.

It’s important that an eating disorder is recognised in an older adult. The physical consequences, such as nutrient deficiency and malnutrition, are dangerous as their bodies cannot manage the physical strain as a younger body might be able to. Older people are more at risk of developing diabetes and osteoporosis, conditions which can be severely exacerbated by an eating disorder.

Eating disorders pictogram

EDAW myth busting! #3

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and this year I’m doing my bit to bust some myths!

Eating disorders are more prevalent in affluent societies

This may be based on the assumption that someone would only deny themselves food, binge or purge food if they had enough.

However research shows that eating disorders occur equally across all levels of income and education.

Hey, Newsflash! Eating disorders are nothing to do with eating or food! An eating disorder is a mental illness, a complex neurological disorder where memories of the past, feed into our emotions and thoughts and lead to behaviours in the present.

If someone is living on the poverty line, they may find themselves spending the little money they have on binge food, they are not making a logical decision, their actions are powered by emotion that feel uncontrollable.

If someone is more affluent, they may have plenty of food. Avoiding food and restricting for days isn’t being deliberately difficult. Their mind is fighting a civil war, trying to figure out which path to take – deciding what to eat when feels complex and all consuming.

Eating disorders are a serious mental disorder, not a lifestyle choice

The time when affluence makes a difference to an eating disorder sufferer is when seeking treatment. All too often I have heard people needing to find a private therapist because the NHS waiting list is simply too long. Private therapy is way beyond most people’s means. We should be proud of our National Health Service – treatment, free at the point of delivery, for all. But it’s letting a lot of people down because it’s under resourced.

When it comes to mental health services, the resources we need are not fancy machines or expensive drugs, we need trained doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists and psychotherapists. Quality time with these experts is in short supply. The average eating disorder sufferer takes over a year to seek help, waiting lists can then sometimes be a year to 18 months long. Of course, if you’re in crisis, you’ll (hopefully) get help sooner but no one should have to get to crisis point to get the help they deserve.

We know that early intervention is vital for a better chance of full recovery. While it’s fortunate that some people can afford private therapy. It saddens me that people from poorer backgrounds have no choice but to sit on the waiting list. It is not ok that people who have no choice but to wait for therapy are at risk of poorer outcomes.

Eating disorders pictogram

EDAW myth busting! #2

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week! This year I’m busting some myths!

Eating disorders are only a problem for white people

This may be based on the assumption that other cultural backgrounds may protect against eating disorders, maybe we think having a more close knit family, or having particular moral and ethical views means you’re less likely to have an eating disorder?

Whatever the reasoning for this myth, it’s inaccurate. Clinical research has shown that eating disorders are just as common, if not more common in people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds than in people from white backgrounds.

If a black male in his 20s walks into their GP surgery with low self-esteem and poor body image, more questions need to be asked about eating behaviours, it cannot be assumed he does not have an eating disorder.

We also need to remember that people from different backgrounds may present differently. As hard as this may be to hear, the closer a family is, the more deceptive the eating disorder may need to be to thrive. Eating disorders can be very clever and stay undetected for years, gradually gnawing away at the individual.

There is a lot of shame and guilt involved in eating disorders and the behaviours that come with them. In some cultures, lack of understanding about eating disorders may even lead to disgrace or dishonour.

The brain, just like any other organ can get sick; when the brain is sick, it leads to unusual behaviours, such as eating more or less than our body needs.

It is important factual information is shared so that all people have equal opportunities to access support and treatment. No matter what someone’s ethnic origin, the earlier the receive help, the more likely a positive outcome. With the right support people can recover from eating disorders.

Group of people from different backgrounds sitting in a circle having a therapy session