Eating disorders

Bay Cluster network with Dr Lamah and Reem El-Sharkawi

Every January we are bombarded with the newest diet or detox regimes that are meant to make us lose weight or ‘detoxify’ from possible excess over Christmas. For many people who suffer with diagnosed or undiagnosed eating disorders this can make their complex relationship with food much worse. 

An eating disorder is a mental health condition where patients use the control of food to cope with feelings or other situations. Eating behaviours may include eating too much or too little or worrying about weight or body shape.

It has been estimated that approximately 1.25 million people in the United Kingdom have an eating disorder, over 75% of whom are female, with cases increasing in males too.  This is likely an underesti-mate as unfortunately a number of patients do not present to health services.  Most eating disorders develop during adolescence, although there are cases in ages as young as 6 and adults in their 70s.

Types of eating disorder

The most common eating disorders are:-

Anorexia Nervosa – Trying to keep weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising to excess or a combination of both. This can make patients very ill as they start to starve. They often have distorted image of their bodies, thinking they’re fat even when they’re underweight.

Bullimia – People have periods where they eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binge eating) and then make themselves sick, use laxatives (medicine to make them poo more) or exercise excessively or a combination to try and stop themselves gaining weight.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – Eating large amounts of food until you feel uncomfortably full.

Other specified feeding or eating disorder:- (OSFED) – A person may have OSFED if their symptoms do not exactly fit the symptoms for any specific eating disorders listed before.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) – This is when someone avoids certain foods, limits how much they eat or does both. This is not neces-sarily to do with beliefs about weight or body shape.

Possible reasons for ARFID include:-

  • Negative feelings over smell, taste or texture
  • Response to past experience with food that was upsetting, for example, choking

Symptoms of eating disorders:-

  • Spending a lot of time worrying about weight and body shape
  • Avoiding socialising when food will be involved
  • Eating very little food
  • Making yourself sick or abusing laxatives
  • Over-exercising

Physical signs:-

  • Feeling cold, tired, or dizzy
  • Pains, tingling, or numbness in arms or legs
  • Heart racing, fainting, or feeling faint
  • Digestive problems such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
  • Weight being very high or very low for someone your age and height
  • Not getting periods or other delayed signs of puberty

It can be so hard to identify someone with an eating disorder

Warning signs can include:-

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Wearing loose clothes to hide weight loss
  • Lying about how much they’ve eaten, when they’ve eaten or their weight
  • Eating a lot of food very fast
  • Going to the bathroom a lot after eating
  • Over-exercising
  • Avoiding eating with others

Getting help

If you think you may have an eating disorder, see your GP as soon as possible. They will discuss your eating habits and check your overall health including weight. You may be referred to eating disorder specialists.

We understand that it may be very difficult to accept and admit you have an eating disorder but getting the help and support you need as soon as possible is critical.










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