anorexia · bulimia · depression · eating disorder · men · mental health · self image · stigma

Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders are something I was always more aware of when growing up, I have been lucky enough to never suffer from one myself but knew people who did.
From studying photography I was very aware of the medias influence on men and women who would often try to reach an unrealistic high expectation of ‘beauty’ and how their bodies should look, this occasionally would lead to a controlling persona where they would obsess over weight and how they looked.

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour.

A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.

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The most common eating disorders are:

  • anorexia nervosa – when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • bulimia – when a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives (medication to help empty the bowels) to try to control their weight
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – when a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time

Eating disorders are often blamed on the social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. However, the causes are usually more complex…

Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a person having an eating disorder include:

  • having a family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse
  • being criticised for their eating habits, body shape or weight
  • being overly concerned with being slim, particularly if combined with pressure to be slim from society or for a job – for example, ballet dancers, models or athletes
  • certain underlying characteristics – for example, having an obsessive personality, an anxiety disorder, low self-esteem or being a perfectionist
  • particular experiences, such as sexual or emotional abuse or the death of someone special
  • difficult relationships with family members or friends
  • stressful situations – for example, problems at work, school or university

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Who is effected by eating disorders?

Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

Bulimia is around two to three times more common than anorexia nervosa, and 90% of people with the condition are female. It usually develops around the age of 18 or 19.

Binge eating affects males and females equally and usually appears later in life, between the ages of 30 and 40. As it’s difficult to precisely define binge eating, it’s not clear how widespread it is, but it’s estimated to affect around 5% of the adult population.

Read here about Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay’s own struggle with an eating disorder.

Seeking help for yourself or another…

If you suffer from an eating disorder or suspect that someone you know does do not be ashamed to ask for help or speak out. There is help out there, take a look at this site called beat which deal specifically with eating disorders, or speak to a loved one you can trust and look into getting a GP appointment so that you can start reclaiming your life and start the journey to recovery with help and support.

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