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Eating Disorder Awareness Week: blog post one

March 1, 2022

By Catherine Hudson, Doctor – General Practice; General Hospital.

You might have seen that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week this week. Around 1 in 50 people suffer from eating disorders, many in secret. Eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and anorexia, which tragically has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

This year’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week campaign is ‘Worth More Than 2 Hours” and is brought to you by Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity.

Unfortunately, at present, medical students receive less than two hours of training on eating disorders in their entire medical degree, which means that the next generation of GPs won’t have the experience to spot the warning signs of eating disorders.

Raising awareness of eating disorders as an issue

For me, it is a time to reflect and raise awareness of eating disorders as an issue.

I have had an eating disorder all my life, but I have suffered the severely low BMI of anorexia twice.

The first time I recovered physically, but not mentally. I learned in retrospect, because it happened again. Most recently, I feel stronger mentally, but my physical health isn’t there yet. It took physical scars to make the mental changes, and I can see now that this meant I finally fought something which could have carried on ruining my life.

I have found this stage of the journey the most difficult, though. This is because even with a healthy weight, and the best relationship with food I have ever had, I can’t understand why I’m not physically better.

My GP can’t explain it, and I can’t be referred because I don’t meet the criteria of being ‘ill enough’.

Eating disorders can leave you feeling in a crisis and alone

If you’re not ‘in crisis’, it can feel like you’re left alone to figure it out.

However, it is surprising to find that there is so much knowledge and support out there. It doesn’t have to be necessarily expert advice, either. Advice from friends, family, colleagues – it is with their help that I have got this far.

It is only by speaking out and talking about these issues that people can help.

Beat have also developed comprehensive courses for medical students. Some schools have started to teach these courses to help bridge the gap in supporting people who are ‘not ill enough’ to meet the NHS requirement but need additional support.

Eating disorder support and further signposting

For colleagues at Fletchers, we have a network of Mental Health Champions who are available for a non-judgmental and confidential chat. They are also able to signpost to support services.

There are also resources and links to support on Beat or via your local NHS services.

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