Professionals estimate that around 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. 5% of these cases were fatal, resulting in an illness that kills or suicide.
With the recent death of Nikki Grahame, these factors have been spotlighted in the media. The statistics are getting worse, yet little is still know generally about them. The diagnosis is hard to get, and very few people can instantly identify the signs and symptoms. Eating disorders remain one of the most misunderstood types of mental illness. It also has the highest mortality rate.
One in every 250 females has anorexia, and one in 200 males, four times more people, have bulimia.
Male eating disorders have taken a dramatic rise over the last couple of years. Recently, men face as much criticism as women in the press - young boys striving to reach the media's idea of a perfect body.
In a world where looks rank higher than intellect, it is no surprise that these statistics are constantly rising. Models are considered more desirable than professors and doctors. Status is judged on how many followers you have rather than how many GCSE's.
An eating disorder is classed as a change in eating habits. Any form of eating disorder is considered an illness, not a behaviour. Although, like any mental health issue, it comes with its stigma. These conditions must be recognised as mental health problem. Thinking they are behaviour and people can change, is where the real danger lies in treatment.
There are currently four main types of eating disorder:
- Anorexia - an irrational fear of gaining weight.
- Bulimia - has three types. They are purging your body of food either through laxatives or vomiting, non-purging where a person uses exercise and fasting and diabulimia where those with it miss insulin injections to lose weight.
- BED - binge eating disorder
- OSFED - any other form of eating disruption.
Many signs might indicate a person is suffering from one of these, apart from weight change. In some circumstances, these signs will present before you see the weight change.
What causes eating disorders?
No one can say exactly what causes eating disorders. Some of the factors contributing are if a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug misuse. Criticism over a person's eating habits, body or shape can also lead to low self-esteem and eating issues. Certain hobbies and career choices can encourage poor eating and weight obsession, such as being in the media or dancing. In some cases, those children sexually abused may develop eating disorders as they endeavour to make themself less attractive to abusers.
Signs and Symptoms of an eating disorder
- Unusual behaviour around food
- Skipping meals and having excuses
- Eating in secret
- Psychological effects such as depression, body dystrophic or OCD
- Thinning hair
- Brittle nails
- Bad breath
- Tooth decay
- Poor skin conditions
It is tough to confront someone with an eating disorder and should be done with caution. First, the person will deny their problem. Second, they will feel shame which will make the subject very sensitive. The best advice is to approach someone with patience, sensitivity and common sense.
You must get help from your local GP as people are unlikely to recover without professional input. Many exceptional organisations will help a person. Looking out for signs and symptoms is all we can do as parents. Ensure you have good communication with your son or daughter and try not to judge. With the proper support and treatment program, young people can recover and lead a life free from an eating disorder.
Being sexy is about attitude, not body type. It's a state of mind. - Amisha Patel