26 February 2021

Smashing the stigma around eating disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses and can affect anyone, no matter their age, gender or background. They include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder, and can be used as a way of coping with feelings or situations that the person feels unable to control.

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Monday 1st to Sunday 7th March) Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust is encouraging anyone who is struggling with, or supporting someone with, an eating disorder to access help and support.

AWP provides a specialist mental health service for people with eating disorders. The STEPS service works with people who are diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa to provide inpatient and community services.

Dr Sanni Norweg, Clinical Psychologist, for AWP's eating disorders service STEPS, said: "Eating disorders can affect both women and men from all backgrounds, ages and groups. There is often a great deal of stigma, shame and guilt associated with eating disorders and it can take a long time, sometimes many years for someone with an eating disorder to access help and treatment. However, research tells us that the sooner an individual is able to get the help and treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.

"Early signs that someone could be suffering from an eating disorder include being excessively worried about eating and weight or shape, avoiding situations where food and eating are involved, having firm and rigid rules about food, eating only small amounts of food, or a lot, in one sitting, obsessively exercising or purging food and changes in mood. If you think you or someone you care for could be suffering from an eating disorder, we would encourage you to talk to your GP in the first instance. They will be able to discuss symptoms with you and decide on the best course of action."

Jess, who has recovered from an eating disorder, is now a peer mentor for the STEPS service. She said: "I thought that I would be trapped in my eating disorder forever; I now know that recovery is possible. With the right help, support and determination you can get better and live a life free from the constraints of an eating disorder. There is no shame in seeking help and I promise you it does get better."

How to recognise the signs someone may be suffering from an eating disorder

Someone who may be experiencing an eating disorder may:

·          Think about food and eating so much it controls their life;
·         Avoid social situations involving food or drinks;
·         Worry excessively about their body weight and/or shape
·         Display changes in behaviour;
·         Have a distorted belief about their body size;
·         Lose a significant amount of weight;
·         Have difficulty concentrating;
·         Eat a lot of food in one sitting (binge-eating);
·         Make frequent trips to the bathroom after meals; and/or
·         Be exercising excessively

Help and support

If you, or someone you know, is having difficulty with eating, it's important to speak to your GP. They will be able to outline the help and support available.

The Eating Disorder Health Integration Team (EDHIT) in Bristol has designed a guide for anyone affected by eating disorders or problems around eating and bodyweight, including those struggling personally, parents, families, carers and professionals. It contains a range of signposting information, advice and guidance from local and national charities and organisations. You can access this resource here

For more information on the EDHIT click here  

For more information about AWP's STEPS service click here 

For more information on eating disorders or supporting someone with an eating disorder visit https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/ or http://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/


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