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Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Wed, 28 - February - 2024

Understanding Eating Disorders


Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that involve using food to cope with emotions or struggling with challenging relationships with eating and food. These disorders go beyond mere dietary habits, often serving as a mask for underlying emotional difficulties.


Defining Eating Disorders


An eating disorder manifests as an unhealthy relationship with food, encompassing behaviours like overeating, undereating, or becoming fixated on food patterns. In the UK alone, an estimated 725,000 people grapple with eating disorders, cutting across age, gender, and cultural backgrounds.


Looking Beyond Food


Eating disorders are not solely about food; they often serve as a coping mechanism for challenging emotions that one finds difficult to confront. The focus on food becomes a shield, concealing deeper emotional struggles.


Types of Eating Disorders


1. Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Attempting to keep weight dangerously low.
  • Perceiving oneself as overweight despite evidence to the contrary.
  • Low self-esteem and fear of gaining weight.


2. Bulimia Nervosa:   

  •  An unhealthy eating cycle involving binging and purging.
  •  Fear of gaining weight and mood changes like anxiety.


3. Binge Eating Disorder (BED):

  • Regularly consuming large amounts of food in a short period.
  • Feeling disconnected and struggling to remember eating episodes.


4. Other Disorders and Problems:

  • OSFED, ARFID, emotional overeating, pica, rumination disorder, selective eating disorder, and orthorexia nervosa are various manifestations with unique symptoms and characteristics.


Recognising Symptoms


Eating disorders manifest through restrictive eating, excessive eating, anxiety about eating around others, secret eating, and persistent thoughts about food. These issues may lead to changes in appearance, depression, fatigue, and strained relationships.


Seeking Diagnosis and Causes


A formal diagnosis by a healthcare professional is crucial. Causes of eating disorders can stem from a combination of psychological, environmental, and genetic factors. Social pressures, stress, perfectionism, and genetic predispositions may contribute.


Treatment Approaches


Psychological treatments, rather than physical interventions, are the mainstay. Guided self-help, psycho-education, and various therapies like CBT-ED, MANTRA, SSCM, and FPT are available. Medication is considered in conjunction with other treatments.


Useful Contacts


If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, you can reach out to organisations like Eating Disorders Association NI, Beat, or The Laurence Trust 

Call: 0808 801 0434 or Text SHOUT to 85258 for help and support. 

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