This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week and with around 1.25million people in the UK suffering with an eating disorder it’s about time we were all equipped with the information on how to identify and approach this subject.
Before you approach the subject with a loved one there are a few key things to note about eating disorders:
- Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Individuals suffering are not always underweight. In fact, of the three main eating disorders anorexia (where part of the diagnostic criteria is to have a BMI of less than 18.5kg.m2) accounts for 8% of total eating disorders, binge eating accounts for 22% and bulimia for 19% with other eating disorders included in the rest.
- 25% of total cases are men. It’s commonly thought that only women are affected although this is not the case.
- Eating disorders are most common among teenagers although they can develop at any age, in particularly menopausal women and vey young children.
- Eating disorders change the personality of the individual. Individuals suffering with an eating disorder may become very reserved, defensive, angry and secretive. Note that this is not the fault of the individual but it is a common symptom associated with eating disorders.
Eating disorders are hugely complex and may look different between individuals. Although, should you be concerned about yourself or a loved one below is a list of behaviours which are just a few common amongst eating disorder sufferers. Please note the list could go on and therefore should you be concerned we encourage you to further your research.
- If an individual is pre-occupied with food. Are they weighing/ obsessing over food?
- Social withdrawal
- Avoids situations where food is involved
- Carries out excessive and rigid exercise routines
- Denies hunger
- Becomes aggressive, secretive or defensive
- Expresses huge weight concern
Due to the nature of eating disorders individuals can be a very difficult subject to approach so here are a few key pointers of what you should be aware of when approaching a loved one.
- Avoid approaching the subject when food is involved/ around meal timings.
- Show care and concern rather than attacking the individual
- If they agree, go prepared with information on where they can find help. Check out BEAT Charity and the NHS for further guidance.
- Explain that you’re there to listen and not judge them.
- Avoid discussing this in public
- Be sensitive in your nature
- Avoid approaching them in a group environment as this can seem intimidating.
Remember eating disorders are not something in which the individual chooses and in many cases they may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their behaviour. Therefore, approach the topic with kindness, concern and an ear to listen.