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Ensuring people with eating disorders get the treatment and support they need at the earliest possible stage is vital in helping them overcome their condition.
That’s the message from Dorset HealthCare’s Eating Disorder Consultant Dr Ciaran Newell, who is urging those who may be suffering in silence to take the bold step and seek help.
National Eating Disorders Week kicks off on Monday (28 February). It aims to clear up the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the illness, and highlight the impact it has on individuals, their families and carers.
Dr Newell will be among the speakers during a week of events organised by Bournemouth University and Dorset HealthCare, taking place at the University’s Talbot and Lansdowne campuses. Attendees will be encouraged to talk openly about their experiences and learn more about the varying levels of the illness.
He said: “A person’s chances of overcoming an eating disorder are far greater if they can quickly get the treatment that will address the factors that contribute to it.
“It is vital that sufferers, and those caring for them, are aware of the support available locally and the role their GP can play in their recovery.
“There are signs that people are seeking help sooner. Since 2015/16 we have received around 463 referrals, with 93 of these involving people under 16. In the five years before, we had just 303 referrals, 21 were under the age of 16.”
Lucy Evans, a student at Bournemouth University, will be giving a talk on Wednesday (1 March), sharing her own experiences of suffering from an eating disorder.
The 27-year-old, from Wimborne, developed bulimia nervosa at the age of 13. She would binge on food and make herself sick, a condition which soon developed into anorexia.
She began her journey to recovery at 21, and despite a severe relapse at 24, she is now well on the road to overcoming the illness – and is keen to tell her story to help others.
She said: “As well as my friends and family, a huge factor in my continuing recovery has been completing the Three Peaks Challenge for charity, a mountain trail of some 50km across Cape Town’s highest points.
“This gave me something to work towards, as I needed to be physically strong to complete it, which in turn helped take my mind off my eating disorder. It had been a lingering feeling for so long but I felt I now had a goal which was healthy.
“The challenge changed my perceptions. During my training I ate, exercised and shared my story openly with others, and the reaction I got was profound.
“All of a sudden I found a doorway to living. No longer did I wake up focused on my next binge and purge, but began each day enthusiastic about being alive and working with my body rather than against it.
“I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to find a focus. A challenge like I chose may not be for everyone, but it has helped instill trust in myself again and a love for my body that I had never had before.”
Dorset HealthCare is also highlighting the dangers of diabulimia, an eating disorder in which people with type 1 diabetes deliberately give themselves less insulin in order to lose weight.
Community Eating Disorder Service Manager Micki Bennett said: “Diabulimia is only really just being talked about, but it’s thought around 170 people a year across Dorset abuse their insulin.
“This condition can result in permanent disability and is happening to young people before they truly appreciate the risks they are running, such as nerve and kidney damage and osteoporosis.”
Help is at hand though, both locally and nationally. Dorset HealthCare’s Eating Disorder Service provides outpatient and 24-hour adult inpatient treatment and support. They are available on 01202 492147 or 492415.
Nationally, the charity BEAT offers resources and forums. It can be contacted via their helpline on 0808 8010677 or its Youthline via 0808 801 0711.
You can access the full programme of talks being run by the Trust and Bournemouth University via www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/eating-disorder-awareness-week .
You can also follow the #bued1617 hashtag on Twitter.