According to the Mental Health Foundation, an estimated 1.6 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Conditions like bulimia and anorexia are serious mental health issues, and the earlier those who receive help to tackle these conditions, the better.
In fact, we think it’s generally acceptable to say that anyone who’s struggling with an eating disorder needs support, empathy, and treatment. Without it, the effect on physical an mental wellbeing could be fatal.
Can you treat an eating disorder on your own?
Yes. There are many self-help books and online resources offering guidance to people who are trying to cope with an eating disorder; they range in content, and approach, but most offer strategies aimed at improving eating habits – and several outline the potential effects of what can happen if the condition goes untreated.
Having said that, and realising that kind of information is a useful reference point, the NHS believes the best course of action is to speak to a medical professional, who can decide what the right treatment should be, based on the person’s individual circumstances.
What support can you get for an eating disorder?
One of the earliest steps towards recovery is a visit to a GP. He or she may not be an expert in this area, but GPs have excellent access to specialists and other groups who can help. There are many charities and organisations that also offer support, which may be useful if you – or the person coping with the disorder – feels uncomfortable talking to a family doctor:
- National Centre for Eating Disorders
- Eating Disorders Support
Treating an eating disorder
According to the MHF, the best way to treat an eating disorder on a long-term basis is to seek out specialist help. Treatments that involve talking to a professional - such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy – will usually try to deal with the underlying emotional issues that are causing the problems on the surface. Other options include:
- Family therapy – talking together, alongside a professional mediator, and discussing how the disorder affects more than one person
- Psychodynamic therapy – talking about your life and experiences, and how that has shaped your current thoughts and behaviour
- Medication – sometimes, antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors could be used to treat binge eating or bulimia
Because eating disorders are such complex conditions, recovery is different for everyone. So do talk to your GP or specialist about the options: a professional can explain in detail what each treatment involves and why they think it will work for you.
More references that could help you tackle an eating disorder include: