NHS Choices defines eating disorders as:
“characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health."
Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder (BED)
Eating disorders are often blamed on the social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. However, the causes are usually more complex.
An eating disorder may be associated with biological, genetic or environmental factors combined with a particular event that triggers the disorder. There may also be other factors that maintain the illness.
- having a family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse
- being criticised for eating habits, body shape or weight
- being overly concerned with being slim
- certain underlying characteristics – for example, having an obsessive personality, an anxiety disorder, low self-esteem or being a perfectionist
- particular experiences, such as sexual or emotional abuse or the death of someone special
- difficult relationships with family members or friends
- stressful situations – for example, problems at work, school or university
Key Issues in Somerset
- In the year ending January 2016, there were 56 finished hospital admission episodes in Somerset where eating disorder was the primary diagnosis
- In the same period, the number of individuals admitted for eating disorders was 36, unchanged year-on-year.
- Around 4 in 5 finished admissions were for anorexia nervosa
- 2 in 5 finished admissions for eating disorders in Somerset were for girls aged 15 or 16.
- In the 2016 Somerset Children and Young People Survey (SCYPS), only 3 in 10 girls in FE/6th Form said they are happy with their weight as it is
- In the same survey, 18% of secondary school pupils reported having nothing to eat or drink for breakfast. Year 10 girls were more likely than average not to have any breakfast or lunch.
- Based on standard methodology, girls in Year 8 and Year 10 were twice as likely as boys the same age to have a medium/low self-esteem score
Key Issues Nationally
Research commissioned by the eating disorder charity b-eat (The Costs of Eating Disorders 2015) estimates:
- Between 600,000 and 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder
- an annual average cost of £8,850 to treat someone suffering with an eating disorder.
- total treatment costs to the NHS of between £3.9 billion and £ 4.6 billion
Hospital admissions data (source: HSCIC) show that in England:-
- Finished admission episodes with a primary diagnosis of an eating disorder rose by more than half between 2006-07 and 2014-15.
- In the year ending January 2016, the figure dipped by 8% year-on-year to 2,703
- Almost 1 in 3 (31%) of all such admissions were for girls aged 14 to 16.
- 9% of such admissions were for males, the peak ages being 13 to 15
- 72% of all admissions where eating disorder was the primary diagnosis were for female anorexia
- Anorexia disorders were most commonly associated with people in the least deprived areas of England
The 2015 Girls' Attitudes Survey, commissioned by Girl Guiding, found that:-
- 2 in 3 girls and young women aged 11 to 21 considered anorexia/eating disorders to be a serious health issue affecting young people
- While the proportion had fallen from 74% in 2010 to 66%, eating disorders remained fourth on the list of serious issues.
- More thought eating disorders important than issues such as drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, binge drinking and obesity.
Providing services in Somerset
Somerset Partnership supports the Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) in their work with people with eating disorders. Referrals can be made only from a local Community Mental Health Team following a referral from a GP.
The Somerset Partnership service's role can include:-
- advice and training for staff
- education for staff, sufferers and their families
- specialist assessment, support and advice
- specialist nutrition advice
- specialist treatment options, including psychological therapies