28 February 2019
It's time to talk about eating disorders, says mental health trust
This Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Monday 25 February to
Sunday 3 March) Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP)
NHS Trust is encouraging anyone who thinks they may have an eating
disorder, or is worried about someone who may be displaying
symptoms, to start a conversation and seek help.
Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses and can affect
anyone, no matter their age, gender or background. They include
anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating, and can be used as a
way of coping with feelings or situations that the person feels
unable to control.
AWP provides specialist treatment for people with eating
disorders. They are highlighting that the earlier support and
treatment is received, the greater the chance of recovery.
Dr Lauren Gavaghan, Consultant Psychiatrist in the AWP STEPS
Eating Disorders Team, said: "There could be many reasons why
someone develops an eating disorder and often they develop as a way
of coping with a situation or difficulty. Beginning a conversation
can be hugely beneficial as it can be the start of the journey to
recovery, which is often long and complex."
Early signs that you or someone you know could be suffering from
an eating disorder include:
• Being worried about eating and weight,
• Significant changes in weight,
• Being secretive about food and feeling distressed about
Carolyn, who has a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa, said: "My
eating disorder started in an attempt to deal with overwhelming
emotions and the scary unpredictable nature of life, caused by the
experience of multiple bereavements. I numbed my thoughts and
feelings through self-starvation and over exercise, but this coping
mechanism for surviving life quickly spiralled out of control with
dangerous weight loss. Anorexia was not only starving my body but
also my life opportunities.
"There is often a lot of self-denial with having an eating
disorder and this makes it really hard to ask for help. It was only
through engaging with STEPs that I was able to accept my eating
disorder and with specialist support (STEPs inpatient service and
community service) work towards recovery.
"Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) is a great opportunity to
be inquisitive and gain knowledge and insight about eating
disorders. Hopefully by gaining confidence to have conversations
more openly, we can break the unnecessary shame and stigma, and
encourage those suffering to seek support earlier."
How to support someone with an eating
1. Get Active - find out what resources are available. The more
you can learn, the more you can help.
2. Get Help - it's rare that eating disorders cure themselves.
Evidence suggests that the sooner someone can access specialist
help the better.
3. Want To Know - make space to talk about what is going on, be
open to hearing fears and anxieties.
4. Value Them - often people feel deeply ashamed by their eating
problems; they aren't being silly, attention-seeking or
5. Get Alongside Them - it will be difficult, but try to see where
the other person is coming from, so they are not on their
6. Speak Up - you have a right to say how these things are
affecting you - but don't expect them to make someone change.
7. Be Prepared - eating disorders are complex illnesses and the
path to recovery is never smooth.
8. It's Down To Them - carers can't make someone want to get
better. Ultimately it has to be down to the individual concerned to
make that choice.
9. Self Care - being a carer can be emotionally exhausting. Take
time out to value what you do and give yourself a break.
10. Be Hopeful - people do overcome their eating disorders!
Recovery is a reality however far away it feels at times.
AWP's STEPs service
Beat Eating Disorders
Anorexia and Bulimia Care