Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018 takes place from 26 February to 4 March.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is an international awareness event, fighting the myths and misunderstandings that surround anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder).

This week AMH will be reporting on the experiences of local people who are affected by Eating Disorders.

  1. Charli’s Story 
  2. Claire’s Story
  3. Kerri’s Story
  4. Dave’s Story
  5. Debbie’s Story
  6. Debbie’s Mum’s Story
  7. Ellen’s Story
  8. Doris’ Story

Firstly by way of introduction, we’ll just clarify what is meant by an Eating Disorder, dispel a few myths and look at the statistics available so we can have a picture of just how wide spread Eating Disorders are and the effect they are having in our local community.

Please get in touch if you want to share your experience – [email protected] and follow us on Twitter and Facebook @amhNI.

What is an Eating Disorder

The most common eating disorders are:

  • anorexia nervosa – when you try to keep your weight as low as possible by not eating enough food, exercising too much, or both
  • bulimia – when you sometimes lose control and eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binging) and are then deliberately sick, use laxatives (medication to help you poo), restrict what you eat, or do too much exercise to try to stop yourself gaining weight
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – when you regularly lose control of your eating, eat large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and are then often upset or guilty
  • other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) – when your symptoms don’t exactly match those of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, but it doesn’t mean it’s a less serious illness

OSFED is the most common, then binge eating disorder and bulimia. Anorexia is the least common.

What causes eating disorders?

We don’t know exactly what causes eating disorders.

You may be more likely to get an eating disorder if:

  • you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug addiction
  • you have been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
  • you’re overly concerned with being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job – for example, ballet dancers, jockeys, models or athletes
  • you have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality, or are a perfectionist
  • you have been sexually abused

Dispelling the Myths

  • Eating Disorders are not primarily about food and weight
  • People can and DO recover
  • Eating Disorders can affect anyone of any age, gender or background

Although an Eating Disorder is a complex mental health condition, in its simplest, it is about using food as an emotional tool. For the person with an eating disorder, controlling food and the body is their way of relieving distress or managing their emotions and achieving some degree of control over their life. Their eating disorder provides them with a sense of safety.

Eating disorders in particular are highly stigmatised, with people commonly dismissing the condition as a ‘diet fad’, a ploy for attention, or simply as ‘normal’ behaviour.

Men and women of any age can get an eating disorder, but they most commonly affect young women aged 13 to 17 years old – but even as young as eight.

Eating disorders don’t happen overnight. They typically progress slowly, and are often triggered by something seemingly innocent, such as the desire for a child to lose a few pounds, or encouragement to over-train for a sport.

Eating disorders include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. They may be coupled with high levels of anxiety, or with specific anxiety disorders like OCD.

The Stats

Each year in Northern Ireland, some 50-120 people develop anorexia nervosa and around 170 people develop bulimia nervosa. There are around 100 admissions to acute hospitals for eating disorders annually. This excludes patients requiring inpatient treatment outside Northern Ireland. Between July 2012 and September 2015, the HSC Board advised that 52 referrals were
made for ECRs to other hospitals or clinics in Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland. Two of these were young people under the age of 18. – The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority
Assurance, Challenge and Improvement in Health and Social Care, Review of Eating Disorder Services in Northern Ireland, December 2015.

While over 700,000 women and men in the UK have a diagnosed eating disorder at any one time, research suggests that this number vastly underestimates the true size of the problem in the UK with estimates suggesting that up to 80% of individuals who screen positively for having an eating disorder have never accessed help or support.

Eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental illness, one in five of the most seriously affected will die prematurely from the physical consequences or suicide. But one of the most harmful symptoms of an eating disorder is SILENCE, we want to encourage those affected to speak out for support and know that a listening, understanding and confidential ear will be here to support you towards recovery.


With research suggesting that as many as 1 in 20 people will develop an eating disorder over their lifetime it’s important we raise awareness of this mental health condition throughout our community and provide much needed support and training within this area of mental health




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