This week (27th February - 5th March) is National eating disorder awareness week.
Eating disorders are a serious issue in the United Kingdom, affecting individuals’ physical and mental wellbeing. With the UK having a population of over 66 million, it is believed that 1.25 million people are affected by an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are not just a problem for women. Men in the United Kingdom suffer from these conditions, too. Here's what you need to know about male eating disorder in the UK.
The UK is no stranger to eating disorders, as a high number of men in the UK experience them. According to a 2018 survey, 8.5 percent of men in the UK reported experiencing an eating disorder during their lifetime.
The prevalence of eating disorders among the young people has become a national health concern, with children as young as 11 seeking diagnosis.
Eating disorders usually present with an individual feeling a loss of control over their eating, leading to a disturbed pattern of eating behaviour. This can range from eating significantly more food than a person would normally eat, to not eating enough to support correct bodily functioning.
There are two main categories of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.
Anorexia is a disorder where the individual restricts their food intake, leading to dangerous levels of weight loss as well as a distorted view of their own body image.
Bulimia is a disease where the individual eats a large amount of food in a single sitting, or 'binging', before attempting to compensate by purging the food which they have just consumed, usually through vomiting or laxative misuse.
Eating disorders are closely linked to other mental health conditions such as major depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and substance abuse. It is believed that up to half of those with an eating disorder may also suffer from depression. Eating disorders can also be triggered by wider societal pressures, with the media’s portrayal of an ‘ideal’ body shape creating an unrealistic standard of beauty.
With this kind of detrimental messaging being easily accessible, particularly through social media platforms, it has been labelled as a huge contributing factor to the prevalent mental health issues seen in the young population of the UK.
In recognition of this problem, there have been various government initiatives developed in the UK to address the issue of eating disorders.
For example, the Department of Health has implemented the 'Steps to Empowerment Programme', a pilot project which aims to raise awareness of eating disorders amongst young people and empower them to seek help from health and social care services.
Hospitals and mental health trusts across the UK have specialist eating disorder services which provide treatment for those affected by eating disorders. The treatments available range from CBT and nutritional guidance to talking therapies and medication.
Whilst there is still progress to be made within the NHS, it is important to emphasise that those suffering from an eating disorder can access the support they need. The first step towards recovery is to talk to a trusted healthcare practitioner or a qualified mental health specialist.
It is vital that any individual with an eating disorder, and those around them, are aware of the serious implications it can have on health if left untreated. It is important to note, however, that with the right support and treatment, recovery is possible.