28 February to 6 March is Eating Disorder awareness week. This important week is organised by the UK charity Beat (formerly the Eating Disorders Association). Their mission is to provide help and support to those with eating disorders and end the suffering caused by it.
It is estimated that around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer with some form of eating disorder. This is not a problem of the young or just women, anyone of any age, gender and background can suffer from them. As Marya Hornbacher (US Author and Journalist) said, “Anorexia and bulimia seem to be getting much more common in boys, men, and women of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds; they are also becoming more common in racial groups previously thought to be impervious to the problem”. And sufferers may deny or not realise there’s a problem and symptoms can be hard to spot.
This illness can manifest itself in a number of ways including bulimia, binge eating disorder, avoidant / restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) and anorexia. And, tragically and perhaps surprisingly, this group of mental illness has one of the highest mortality rates.
Beat’s helpline is available all year round and seeks to empower people to get the right help quickly. The sooner someone gets treatment, the greater their chance of recovery as the longer you suffer with one of these illnesses, the more likely you are to cause serious damage to your body.
So, what causes an eating disorder? Well, evidence suggests it’s a combination of a biological predisposition together with a social or environmental trigger. Common triggers can include a trauma, stress, bereavement or relationship problems.
Eating disorders often flourish on secrecy and, according to Beat, countless people who are in recovery agree that breaking the silence is the right thing to do. So, give some thought as to when and where you will talk to them. Try not to centre the conversation on weight or food. At their roots, eating disorders are about what the person is feeling. Mention a few things that have concerned you and confirm you care and are worried about them.
They may become angry or defensive. Try to be calm in response and don’t be disheartened. If they insist there is nothing wrong, continue to monitor them and remember they may not realise they are ill. Denial, specifically in the case of anorexia, it’s considered a symptom and is very common. Trust your judgment. If they acknowledge that they need help, encourage them to seek it as quickly as possible. Offer to go with them if they would find that helpful.
So, if you or someone you know has an unhealthy relationship with food then Hypnotherapy can help. It can help to explore triggers, break habits and boost will power and support. If you feel this could be for you, then contact me.