Eating disorders are extremely common, however can be serious and even life threatening if not treated appropriately. Millions of people are affected by eating disorders every year and unfortunately thousands of sufferers die because their disorder has gone unrecognised for too long. Approximately 1% of people aged between 10 and 20 suffer from anorexia each year and 4% aged 16 - 25 suffer from bulimia.
The main characteristic of an eating disorder is the individual's obsession with their weight; these obsessive thoughts can lead to severe consequences in both their health and their actions.
Research has shown that females are much more likely to develop anorexia and bulimia than males. However, this is not the case with binge-eating disorder, which seems to develop in almost as many males as females.
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Common symptoms of eating disorders
- dramatic weight loss or gain in a fairly short period of time
- obsession with weight
- obsession with calories and fat content of foods
- loss of sexual desire
- mood swings, feeling depressed and tired
- insomnia or poor sleeping habits
- experiencing low self-esteem
- experiencing suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide
- obsessing about food and body image
- isolation and fear of eating while others are around
- unusual Food rituals and secretive eating patterns
- hiding food in strange places to avoid eating or to eat secretly at a later time
- feeling anxious, lonely or depressed.
Types of eating disorders
Eating disorder statistics
According to the Mental Health Foundation current estimates suggest that up to 1 per cent of women in the UK between the ages of 15 and 30 suffer from anorexia nervosa, and between 1 and 2 per cent suffer from bulimia nervosa. As many cases of eating disorder are unreported or undiagnosed, the actual figures are likely to be much higher. Eating disorders are much more likely to occur among women than men. However, for anorexia, there is also evidence to suggest that in the younger age group (7–14 years), up to 25 per cent of cases are boys.
What should I be looking for in a counsellor or psychotherapist?
There are currently no laws in place that outline what training and qualifications a counsellor must have in order to treat eating disorders. However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have developed a set of clinical guidelines that provide advice about the recommended core interventions in the treatment and management of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and related eating disorders. To view the full guideline, please visit the NICE website directly (detailed below).
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