Recent figures suggest that 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder! That could mean that 1 in 40 of us may suffer from this isolating mental illness at some point in our lives.
Eating disorders can affect anyone of any age, not just teenage girls and young women; in fact 11% of eating disorders in the UK are suffered by males- a steady incline as awareness increases. It’s estimated that of all eating disorders, 10% of sufferers are anorexic, 40% are bulimic and the rest fall into the EDNOS category (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified) which includes binge eating disorders.
With all these statistics it’s not uncommon that you may know someone close to you who suffers from an eating disorder- whether that’s at school, work or home. It’s not always easy to identify whether a person has an eating disorder just by their outward appearance but the SCOFF questionnaire (developed by Professor John Morgan) can indicate a possible eating disorder;
Do they make themselves Sick because they feel uncomfortably full?
Do they worry they have lost Control over how much they eat?
Have they recently lost more than One stone in a three month period?
Do they believe themselves to be Fat when they are a healthy weight/underweight?
Would you say that Food is dominating their lives?
Other tell-tale signs that an eating disorder could be prominent is excessive exercising, social isolation and low mood, covering weight loss with baggy clothes, hair loss, frequently disappearing to the bathroom during and after meals, smell of vomit or excessive use of air fresheners about the house, avoiding eating with others for example the excuse of having eaten already or elsewhere, extremely cold and blue toes.
But how can you help them and where can you find information?
It is important to remember that eating disorders aren’t only about body image and appearance. They can be coping mechanisms for emotional or stress related issues; particular experiences such as abuse; or certain characteristics for example obsessive personalities or low self-esteem. Often an eating disorder is a way of gaining back control over one’s life.
If you are suspicious or worried that someone may have an eating disorder, act don’t ignore, as early intervention results in more effective treatment and a higher chance of full recovery. Ask gentle questions and calmly express your concern. Those with undiagnosed eating disorders are often in denial and secretive about their wellbeing therefore be patient, supportive and Remember There’s Help Out There.