About Eating Disorders
The UK has the highest rate of eating disorders in all of Europe. Studies estimate that between 11 and 13 million people have psychological issues with food that leave them permanently restricting their diet and 1.6 million people have a diagnosed eating disorder. Although females are more at risk, men and boys get eating disorders too and ABC has supported people from 8 to 70 years old.
There are three main eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
It is important to remember that not everyone will receive a clear-cut diagnosis of one of these. Many people struggle with food and eating, but do not present serious enough symptoms to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. Others have symptoms which affect their health, their emotional well-being and their lifestyle but may not fit a definite diagnosis. Sometimes a sufferer may have symptoms from more than one type of eating disorder and sadly large numbers of those struggling never seek help. Shame, fear and guilt about their condition can result in them never seeking a diagnosis or any help and suffering in silence. Those that love them; parents, partners, children and other family members, are usually trying desperately to help and persuade a sufferer to seek help but often feel excluded, powerless and heart-broken.
There are many theories about how and why eating disorders develop and everyone is different. You can read about some of the trigger factors and other related issues in the categories on this site and gain insight into the mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder and the feelings of family members supporting them towards recovery.
Eating disorders are complex, psychological illnesses. They affect the mind, the spirit and the body with some very severe physical consequences which sufferers can endure for years. Eating disorders claim the lives of more people under 18 than any other psychiatric condition. There are many misconceptions surrounding eating disorders. Much misunderstanding focuses on the sufferer’s ability to alter the course of their eating disorder and recover by just trying harder or eating better, in other words to “snap out of it”. For Christians there are other judgments and issues. For any sufferer, the road to recovery is a long and difficult journey.
Controlling food and eating has become synonymous with controlling other aspects of life which are distressing and overwhelming. To begin with this can seem to be the answer. Sufferers talk of feeling more confident, more alert, more able to face the world. However what begin as coping methods are short term solutions. The problems remain and the emotional and physical symptoms that the eating disorder causes begin to “take” more from the person than they “provide”. Eventually the eating disorder takes control of the person (and those closest to them) and becomes a vicious cycle that is very hard to break out of.