Skipping a meal could cause eating disorders
- November 05, 2020
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Increasing numbers of people are seeking help for eating disorders – but treatment and services are scarcer than ever, experts have warned.
Last year, the Eating Disorders Association (EDA), helped over 44,000 people and answered more than 18,000 calls to its helplines – a 10 per cent increase in demand.
But there has been no extra funding from the Government for helplines or specialist clinics, leaving many without help.
A new campaign now highlights how something as apparently innocuous as skipping the odd meal can lead to anorexia or bulimia.
Eating disorders develop as an outward sign of inner emotional or psychological distress or problems. They are often triggered by a traumatic event and become the way that people cope with difficulties in their life.
Experts believe that changing trends in society, such as the increasing pressure to look good, could be to blame for the growing number of sufferers.
More than one million people in the UK now have an eating disorder. Of all psychiatric illnesses it has the highest mortality rate. Some sufferers turn to suicide as a last resort.
Three to four times more people are bulimic than anorexic, but their symptoms often go undiagnosed and they suffer in silence. This is mainly because bulimia is more difficult to detect, as the person will often not lose weight so dramatically.
Binge eating, where people indulge in uncontrollable eating sprees, but do not purge themselves, is also rising. In 10 per cent of cases the sufferers are obese.
The long-term health implications can be extreme. Bulimia is extremely dangerous as it can lead to organ failure, heart attacks, and osteoporosis.
The EDA estimates that 18 per cent of all people with anorexia nervosa will die prematurely.
Doctors claim there are far too few NHS eating disorder clinics around the country. There are no clinics in Wales, for example. And there are only six clinics for adolescents – one of the main age groups affected – in the UK.
One Welsh teenager has spent the last six months receiving help in a special unit in London because there are no services closer to her home.
The EDA sends out nearly 10,000 sets of free information to inquirers a year and receives dozens of e-mail requests for help every day.
Now, as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, the charity is targeting schools, colleges, youth clubs and health centres to reach the 16-25-year-olds – who are at greater risk.
Chief executive Nicky Bryant, said: ‘Anorexia and bulimia nervosa and related illnesses affect the lives of almost every one of us, either directly or indirectly.
‘We know that people’s lives are at risk because of the lack of recognition of the problem and help available.
‘There are over one million people in the UK suffering from an eating disorder but it isn’t one of the highest priorities on the mental health agenda. These are not the kind of people who are likely to speak out, they are vulnerable and in denial so it makes them easier to overlook.
‘There is a desperate shortage of long term help and services for people with eating disorders in the UK.’
If you need help, ring the EDA Youthline, for people aged 18 and under, on: 01603 765050, or the general helpline on: 01603 621414.