It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week from Feb 25th - 3rd March and the theme this year is that anyone can have an eating disorder or have eating distress, no matter what their gender, sexuality, race, religion, age etc. Children North East's Rachel Cowey, who is a counsellor at our Young People's Service takes a look at the issue.

According to research published today by Beat, stereotypes about who might have an eating disorder are preventing BAME, LGBTQ+ and people from less affluent backgrounds from seeking help. Over the course of the week we will be showing various facts and figures over on our social media channels.

Common misunderstandings

The most commonly recognised eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. However, most people experience more than one form or are commonly diagnosed with “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED) which used to be known as “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS).

There are a lot of misunderstandings about eating disorders – the main ones being that eating disorders are all about food and weight or that someone is just doing it for attention. Eating disorders are in fact serious psychological mental health illnesses and can cause serious harm. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

People can recover

Eating disorders are often a way for people to try to cope with things happening in their life or for them to try to feel that they are more in control. Eating disorders are individual and complex – there are often many factors for someone to develop an eating disorder. 

A whole range of factors will have an influence – biological, psychological, genetic, environmental and social. For example bullying, low self-esteem, perfectionism, pressure at school, family separation, bereavement and loss, child abuse, child sexual exploitation and stress.

Although eating disorders have high mortality rates and people can suffer for many years, people can actually recover from an eating disorder. Like most illnesses, the sooner someone gets help, the more likely recovery is.

How can we help?

If you are worried about yourself or someone else, the best thing to do is to go to your GP who can refer you to a specialist service.

At Children North East Young People’s Service counselling service, we do work with children and young people who have struggles with food and body image and eating distress.

As we are not a specialised service, instead of concentrating on food and weight gain, we try to focus on self-esteem and building resilience but also ensuring we do keep an eye on risk and the need to refer on.

Local specialised services

With regards to specialised services, for young people aged 16 or over, we can refer you to NIWE Eating Distress Service, who offer counselling and recovery groups. If necessary, more intense, specialised services may be required.

If you are under 18, we will refer you to the Eating Disorders Intensive Community Team (EDICT), who are based in Hexham but also offer community appointments and support such as in Newcastle. For 18 and above, we will refer you to the Richardson Eating Disorder Service based at the RVI Hospital.

For further information on eating disorders, please visit NIWE at www.niwe.org.uk and Beat at www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

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