Eating Disorders: What are they and who is at risk of them?

Eating disorders can have a devastating impact on the lives of sufferers and the people around them.  Eating Disorders Awareness Week (26th February to 4th of March 2018) is an international awareness event, fighting the myths and misunderstandings that surround anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS. We are proud to have Dr Sandeep Kapur who is the Chief Medical Officer at Qured, an on-demand healthcare service that delivers a doctor to your door within 2 hours. He has 20 years of experience in the medical industry, with qualifications from Guys Hospital and Case Western Reserve University, Ohio USA. He has been a GP in London for over 14 years. He shares with us some facts on easting disorders and how they come about.

Eating disorders run big and small. They can be life-long conditions or they can appear for a few months at a time. But there is something that all those suffering from an eating disorder have in common: every aspect of their lives is affected. They change how you socialise, your relationships with others, and your physical and mental well-being.

Despite these detriments, it is surprisingly difficult to tell when someone is suffering from an eating disorder. While over 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, most have yet to be treated. That’s why it is important to keep the discussion about eating disorders going: to learn, contribute to the awareness, and offer our support to those who need it.

What are eating disorders?

In general, eating disorders are classified as unhealthy attitudes towards food or unhealthy behaviour towards eating. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating disorder (BED), but even if your symptoms don’t match any of these, there are various, less-common eating disorders too. For example, orthorexia is an eating disorder that is often described as an excessive obsession with “clean eating.”

The warning signs of someone with an eating disorder typically include dramatic weight loss, dishonesty about how much they have eaten, binge eating, going to the bathroom frequently after eating, excessively exercising, avoiding social situations that involve eating, and cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly.

How do eating disorders come about?

Eating disorders are often classified as mental health illnesses, although the exact triggers are not known. You are more likely to develop an eating disorder if your family has a history of mental health illnesses, you have been criticised for your eating habits or body shape, or you are overly concerned with being slim.

They also tend to develop during adolescence, this being a time when you are prone to stress, confusion, and anxiety, but it is definitely not restricted to this age group. They affect women more than men, but all are vulnerable to eating disorders.

How do I approach someone with an eating disorder?

It can be difficult approaching someone who you suspect has an eating disorder, as they may act defensively. But getting professional help from a doctor or specialist is their best chance of getting better. In fact, about 45% of those with anorexia and bulimia are able to make a full recovery.

As a relative or friend, remember to keep including them in your usual activities, as this will let them know that you are there for support. It’s important to give it time, listen to them, and not to be critical or questioning of their disorder.

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