It is estimated that well over a million people in the United Kingdom are affected by a eating disorder. Many people see this as a modern disorder but actually it is not new.
If we look back to the time of Caesar during the Roman Empire, it was common for the wealthy to overeat and then purge after over-indulging during lavish banquets. They even had places especially for this, so they could return to the feast and continue eating.
It is not just teenage girls affected, although this seems to be a popular misconception. Disordered eating can affect anyone of any gender, age, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status or sexual orientation.
The person affected does not choose it and contrary to many peoples beliefs it is not a deliberate form of attention seeking. Eating disorders manifest as a significant disturbance in an individual’s thinking and their relationship to food, weight and shape. There are four main classifications: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED). It’s not always obvious that someone has an eating disorder.
It is worth remembering, these disorders are mental illnesses and so the general rule of thumb is, only those hypnotherapists who have experience in dealing with mental illness should see these people for treatment. Usually a raft of care is needed from several specialist health professionals.
Often eating disorders are born out of a need for control and this is perhaps why we are seeing many cases among teens who were affected by lockdowns when some felt things were completely out of control. All eating disorders, are highly distressing to those who suffer them and can lead to potentially life threatening physical complications.
Anorexia has the highest mortality rate amongst all psychiatric illnesses and requires very specialist medical intervention often as part of a multi discipline team including a nutritionist. A very serious psychological illness that can have long term consequences both physically and mentally and should never be underestimated. In the case of Binge eating disorder, the physical consequences may include digestive issues, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
People get caught up in a destructive pattern that may be characterised by behaviour such as self-starvation or severe restriction, purging by self-induced vomiting or laxative use, or bingeing and consuming vast quantities of food way beyond their needs and gaining a huge amount of weight.
Medical interventions are essential in the case of eating disorders, this cannot be overstated. If the person does not seem to accept that they have a problem they should be encouraged to seek help and see their G.P as soon as possible, the earlier treatment is accessed the better the outcome. Even when dealing with someone who comes for simple weight control, we must be sure there are no underlying health or psychological factors that need investigation.
Often the psychological affects of an eating disorder can be forgotten when it comes to those who are supporting or who care for a person with one.
If you are worried about someone who may have an eating disorder, you may be able to find a therapist on our website to help you or the person. Please use the find a therapist section, often our therapists work online as well as face to face.
More information and help can also be found at:
Georgina McKinnon – Chair of APHP