Eating disorders are group of complex mental illnesses. Anyone, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality or background, can potentially develop an eating disorder.
Some examples of eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder (BED), and anorexia. There’s no one single cause and people might not have all symptoms for anyone eating disorder.
Many people are diagnosed with “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED), which means that their symptoms don’t exactly match what doctors check for to diagnose binge eating disorder, anorexia, or bulimia, but doesn’t mean that it’s still not serious. It’s also possible for someone’s symptoms, and therefore their diagnosis, to change over a period of time. For example, someone could have anorexia, but their symptoms could later change so that a diagnosis of bulimia would be more appropriate.
Could you have an eating disorder?
If until now, you haven’t had any reason to know much about eating disorders, it may well be that your understanding of them is based on the way they are portrayed in the media, for example.
This often portrays a particular type of ‘story’ in terms of who gets eating disorders, what causes them, and what the symptoms are. This doesn’t necessarily reflect the full spectrum of eating disorders and people who can develop them.
- Statistics suggest that people with eating disorders are predominately 60% female and 40% male. With more women seeking help than men, because men perceive them as solely female issues.
- The average age of people are roughly aged 35 and over. They’ve been “serial dieters” over the years, losing and gaining weight. Restricting food groups and on the constant look out for the latest diet, which claims you “Can you lose 30lbs by doing x, y and z”
- Stereotypes about who gets eating disorders might make them even harder to spot among older people, men and boys, and ethnic and cultural minority groups. The real number of sufferers overall could be much higher than we think, but particularly among groups like these.
Your circumstances, feelings, and symptoms may be very different to what you’ve seen or read about, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an eating disorder. The way eating disorders present themselves can hugely vary from one person to another. This means eating disorders can be difficult to identify, and often those suffering can appear ‘healthy’ and of ‘normal weight’ despite being unwell.
If you think you might be experiencing problems with your eating or feel that difficult feelings or situations are making you change your eating habits or feel differently about food, you could have an eating disorder or be developing one.
If you’re at all worried about yourself or even someone else close to you, it’s always advisable to seek help as quickly as possible, as this facilitates the greatest chance of a full recovery.
Eating disorders can be a way of coping with “feelings or situations” that are making you unhappy, angry, depressed, stressed, or anxious.
They are not your fault, and no one chooses to have an eating disorder.
Maybe you’re worried about talking to someone about this because you feel that your eating disorder isn’t serious enough, you don’t want to worry people or waste their time, or because you feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. But, this is all normal.
No matter whether your eating difficulties began recently, or you’ve been struggling for a while, or you were treated for an eating disorder in the past that you think might be coming back, you deserve to have your concerns acknowledged respectfully, to be taken seriously and to be supported in the same way as if you were affected by any other illness.