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Understanding Eating Difficulties and How to Manage Them

Updated: Mar 1

Eating Difficulties are serious mental illnesses which involve a complex relationship with food and affect an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK.


Women looking at the fridge with an eating difficulty

In the last five years, NHS data shows that hospital admissions for eating disorders are up by 84%.


Although eating disorders do not discriminate and can develop at any age, the risk is highest in adolescents.


There is no single cause of eating disorders. Research suggests that a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors can increase the risk of an individual developing an eating disorder.


What signs to look out for


Below are some psychological and physiological symptoms that often present as warning signs of an eating disorder and may indicate that an individual is struggling and needs additional support.


Psychological Symptoms

· Distorted beliefs about weight or body size

· Fixated with weight loss and restricting food intake

· Withdrawal from friends, especially when food is involved

· Poor coping skills related to life events

· Extreme mood swings

· Exercising excessively


Physiological Symptoms

· Rapid weight fluctuations

· Low blood pressure

· Tiredness or difficulty concentrating

· Brittle hair and nails

· Muscle weakness

· Impaired immune system


How to get help


There are lots of different ways to seek support for an eating disorder. However, the most appropriate form of treatment will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of eating disorder, severity, and personal circumstances.


Multi-disciplinary approach eating disorders are frequently associated with psychological and physiological symptoms, therefore at a minimum treatment should involve a GP and mental health professional.


Eating disorder cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-ED) involves an individual working through their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours with a mental health professional, in the hope of changing their thinking around food, eating and weight.


Psychoeducation about the disorder teaches an individual about the symptoms of an eating disorder and how to manage them better- understanding leads to better recovery.


Seeking support from close friends and families is tremendously helpful and allows an individual to feel supported, valued and listened to free from judgement. Research suggests that incorporating the family into treatment for eating disorders can improve outcomes, especially for adolescents.


Screening tools such as SCOFF questionnaire can be used to assist in the early diagnosis of eating disorder, however, should not be used as the only method of assessment.



Benefits of early intervention


· Eating disorders left untreated can cause serious medical problems.


· Psychological co-morbidities are prominent in eating disorders and research has found that the presence of comorbidity is a strong indicator of poorer long-term outcomes.


· The longer an individual has had an eating disorder the more ingrained these patterns and behaviours become, illustrating the importance of early intervention.


At bMindful we are on hand to provide mental health support in the context of one to one therapy and support for those suffering from an eating disorder and families and carers around the child. Contact us for an initial discussion[K1] .


Please note that should the individual be experiencing any physiological conditions as a result of the eating disorder, advice should be taken from your GP.


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