Column: Doncaster woman shares her journey with eating disorders and her concerns for others in a post pandemic world
A Doncaster woman says more needs to be done after Covid-19 as there has been a 400 per cent rise in demand for eating disorder services during the pandemic.
When you hear the word ‘Eating Disorder’, what is it that you think of?I can imagine that ‘Anorexia’ comes to mind, the stereotypical image of an underweight teenage girl surviving on a ‘grain of rice’ a day dominating your headspace.This is unsurprising really when there is so little published about eating disorders.How could we possibly imagine that someone with an eating disorder could in fact eat three ‘normal’ sized meals and three snacks a day, devouring bowls of pasta and garlic bread, followed by chocolate covered flapjacks, after completing 5KM runs in under 20 minutes?I can, because I was that girl.The girl mistaken for being a ‘dedicated athlete’, when the girl in question was in fact battling an internal war inside her head, every…single…day.
When I finally developed the courage to admit that I had a problem and decided to seek help, instead of feeling understood, I felt the opposite.I was wrongfully diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa at the age of 15, when I was in fact suffering from Orthorexia and Anorexia Athletica.Even a specialist eating disorder team did not recognise the illnesses, so how could other people be expected to?
The issue I have with misdiagnoses is this; Would someone with bowel cancer accept a diagnosis of having cancer of the liver?
Of course they wouldn’t.The same treatment would not work, it would put their life at risk.So why is mental health any different? It shouldn’t be, which is why things so desperately need to change, and the only way to achieve that change, is through education- education right the way through society, from children in schools to medical professionals in GP surgeries.
People need to be made aware of the varying warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders, so that early intervention can be accessed. Knowing what to look out for, both in ourselves and in our
family and friends, is incredibly important. It can save lives. It could save your life, or your sisters life, or your brothers, or your Mum’s.
So, what are the warning signs you should be looking out for? To list a few; becoming withdrawn from activities that were previously enjoyed, low mood, experiencing fluctuations in weight (either
up or down), lacking energy, and becoming preoccupied with thoughts around food and exercise.
It is critical that early intervention is implemented if any of these symptoms are suspected, since eating disorders thrive in secrecy and isolation, hence why the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has led to a 400% rise in demand for eating disorder services.This statistic is deeply worrying.
As restrictions ease and we can finally see an end to lockdown, let us hope that people can get the help they need to heal their relationships with food and access the support they need to recover.
To read more about what I have discussed today, please have a look at my blog https://portfolioofhope.wordpress.com/, where you can find lots more content surrounding mental health.