Mental Health Awareness Week: Eating Disorders

Posted: 10 May 2017 at 6:50 am | Author: Alison German

Our relationship with food can be complicated, and often changes depending on our mood in the current moment. For this reason it might be difficult to recognise when an occasional food problem, such as comfort eating or undereating in times of stress, has escalated into an eating disorder. An eating disorder is an eating problem that is persisting over a long period of time and having a worrying impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. The symptoms for the most common kinds of eating disorders can be found below:

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Eating tons of food in one go, and then getting rid of the food you’ve eaten by making yourself sick or using laxatives
  • Starving yourself in-between binges
  • Exercising excessively to try and make up for binge eating

Anorexia

  • Reducing food take dramatically, or refusing to eat at all
  • Counting calories obsessively
  • Hiding food, or throwing it away
  • Using drugs that speed up digestion
  • Making yourself sick using laxatives
  • Wearing clothing in order to cover up weight loss and keep warm

Binge eating disorder

  • Pick at food, or eat large amounts at once
  • Eating large amounts of food without thinking
  • Eat until you feel uncomfortable or sick
  • Comfort eating in times of stress or unhappiness

Eating disorders are usually about more than just food alone. Eating disorders are often a damaging way of dealing with deeper issues, such as difficult events in your life or painful feelings that you’re struggling to cope with. The symptoms associated with eating disorders, such as obsessively or secretly hiding food, can give sufferers a sense of control that they don’t have in other areas of their life. Eating disorders such as anorexia are often assumed to be primarily influenced by a culture of slimming and dieting; however behind the surface it is often connected to other problems that aren’t being dealt with, such low self-esteem, negative self-image and feelings of intense distress and unhappiness.

There can be whole range of other root causes that could be behind an eating disorder, such as family issues or difficult childhood experiences, the impact of existing mental health problems, or social and cultural pressure. Whilst anyone can experience an eating disorder, those with particular personality traits, such as a tendency towards unreasonable self-criticism or a lack of confidence in self-expression, may be more vulnerable.

If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself, or are worried about somebody else, it is vital you do everything you can to seek help for yourself or other people. You can do this by pursuing direct help in the form of counselling. Self-help methods include taking practical every day steps to try and curb unhealthy routines. For example by buying smaller amounts of food when overeating, or making sure you’re around other people after eating to prevent purging.

Changes in unhealthy routines, traits and behaviours can take time. Self-help therefore also involves learning how to be kinder to yourself and understand that setbacks in recovery, if they arise, are just that: setbacks. They are not the be all and end all.

For further information on eating disorders, and details about where to seek help, can be found here.

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