Eating disorders are in the spotlight this week with the launch of the National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week. From Monday 27th February to Friday 3rd March, the annual NEDA week aims to raise awareness and challenge the many stigmas around eating disorders.
Official statistics for eating disorders in the UK paint a grim picture. According to Anorexia and Bulimia Care, 1.6 million in the UK are effected by eating disorders, although they think figure is thought to be closer to 4 million.
The South Yorkshire Eating Disorder Association (SYEDA) are based in Upperthorpe and provide therapeutic and practical support for those in the area. Kate Eveson has worked for the organisation, which was originally founded by a group of families, since 2006.
She said: “Since the start of April 2016, we have received 384 referrals from those suffering from an eating disorder. 268 of these individuals were from Sheffield alone.” Working out at an average of 24 people per month reaching out for help, she cites the high student population in the city as a relevant factor. “We see a relatively high proportion of students due to there being two large universities within the city. That said, the average age of those with eating disorders who referred was 27 which evidently goes against the theory that eating disorders only effect young people.”
Megan Rees, 22, from Kent, has been battling with bulimia since the age of seven. She cites her time at University as particularly difficult: “Over the years, I’ve thrown up meals (and blood), limited calories and binged more than I thought could be possible. At university in 2013, I developed appendicitis and reached my lowest, extremely unhealthy weight whilst recovering. It got to the point when in a whole week all I ate was a food basket my grandmother had sent me.”
Whilst it is widely acknowledged that women between the ages of 16 and 40 are those predominantly affected, awareness of how the illnesses effect men is increasing. It is thought that around 25% of people in the UK who are affected are male. In Sheffield, while 94% of referrals came from women, there were 18 referrals from men.
— Mind (@MindCharity) February 27, 2017
Eveson strongly advises those who struggling to reach out for help; “For anyone experiencing an eating disorder the first port of call should always be your GP.” She encourages those who do to be honest with their Doctor. “If you go and say that you’re experiencing stomach cramps but don’t explain these are due to not eating because you fear you’re experiencing an eating disorder, the GP will be unable to diagnose correctly and signpost for the correct support.”
Eating disorder charity B-Eat surveyed around 1,700 people on how they found the experience of speaking to a GP. The charity said: “The results were very mixed, showing that getting help from the GP is a lottery.” They aim to use the week to improve the level of training for those who may be a first port of call for those suffering.