Chalkboard with "Eating Disorders" written on it with a stethoscope on top

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Don’t suffer in secret

National Eating Disorders Week 2022

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It is estimated that around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, but many suffer in secret.

By raising awareness, we want to help remove the stigma of eating disorders and encourage those experiencing them to get the help they need. It’s not easy, but everyone has to start somewhere.

About eating disorders

Unlike some other conditions, eating disorders can affect anyone. No matter your age, gender, or background, you could develop an eating disorder at any stage in your life. They are complex mental health disorders that can develop for a wide variety of reasons – each individual case is different, which is why it is important for those who suspect they have one to seek help.

The direct effects of the disorders – both mental and physical – aren’t the only risks. Many eating disorders, if they develop to such extremes, can lead to self-harm or even suicide. This is why getting treatment early on is vital – it can literally save your life. But no matter how far along your disorder is, treatment is always possible.

It is important to recognise the signs of an eating disorder, not just for yourself, but so that you can identify these behaviours in people around you. If a friend or family member is suffering through an eating disorder, your support could be the essential first step to them accepting it, understanding it, and eventually getting the help they need.

man comforting woman in blanket with mug

Common eating disorders

Though there are a large number of eating disorders, there are several common ones that are frequently diagnosed. These are anorexia – the compulsion to keep your weight as low as possible; bulimia – characterised by binge eating and purging; and binge eating disorder (BED) – feeling compelled to overeat on a regular basis.

Each disorder is different and can develop to different extremes depending on the person and their situation. While it is vital to receive a diagnosis from a medical professional to understand the disorder you are dealing with, there are several common signs of eating disorders to watch out for:

  • Worrying frequently about your body shape or weight
  • Avoiding social situations that involve food
  • Not eating very much food
  • Purging after eating
  • Over-exercising
  • Strict eating habits
  • Mood changes – e.g. depression, anxiety, etc.

No single symptom is necessarily evidence of an eating disorder – please see a healthcare professional if you think you may be experiencing one.

an eating apple next to a mirror where its reflection is a whole apple

Getting help

Eating disorders are complicated and can be tough to break, but with the right support, recovery is absolutely possible.

Seeing a GP as soon as you believe you may have an eating disorder is the best way to treat it. They will ask you about your eating habits, symptoms you may have, and check your overall weight and health. You will be redirected to an eating disorder specialist if necessary.

If you recognise eating disorder symptoms in someone you know, please encourage them to see their GP, and maybe offer to go with them to ease their anxiety.

Treatments differ depending on the condition, but talking therapy is a common treatment in most cases. As a mental health disorder, therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment that can correct the abnormal neurological pathways formed by those with eating disorders.

If you want to book an appointment with one of our Imaan pharmacies, or want more details on the conditions discussed in this post, please visit our locations page to find your local community pharmacy.

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