We're Socking it to Eating Disorders

Rebecca Lawton

Executive Assistant

Before we waste time getting to know each other, do you like cheese?

It’s 2018, and mental health is seemingly still a taboo subject.

As a company that constantly looks to make positive change, we’re trying to improve mental health in the workplace. The reason we’re helping to raise awareness for eating disorders this week, is because like other mental health problems, the signs and symptoms often aren’t easy to spot, and those suffering from the illness can be good at hiding it. Eating disorders can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Between 600,000 and 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder and, on average, those experiencing eating disorder symptoms will wait 149 weeks before seeking help. It isn’t always easy to seek help yourself, which is why talking about mental health problems plays a big part in the road to recovery.

There are multiple differences between each recognised eating disorder and individuals experience the symptoms in different ways. Hopefully this blog post will help to make people aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for. All information below, has been sourced from multiple websites that are linked at the bottom of the page.

Anorexia Nervosa

Those with anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible and have an intense fear of becoming overweight. This is characterised by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. 90-95% of individuals with anorexia nervosa are female, and it affects around 1 in 1400 adolescents. There are two sub-types of anorexia nervosa:

Restricted Type

Individuals with the restricting type of anorexia restrict their food intake and increase their activity to keep their bodyweight as low as possible.

Purging Type

Some people can get this confused with bulimia, however the two disorders differ. Those with the purging type of anorexia usually restrict their food intake, but also sometimes engage in binge eating and/or purging behaviours. This can range from vomiting, excessive exercise and/or taking laxatives/diuretics.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being ‘fat’
  • Inability to appreciate the severity of the situation
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
  • Purging type – binge eating and/or purging behaviours during the last three months
  • Calorie counting

Bulimia Nervosa

Individuals who suffer from bulimia  want to maintain/control their weight by using purging and/or non-purging methods. This normally occurs in 0.5%-2.0% of adolescents and young women. Those with bulimia nervosa are usually of average or above average weight and are afraid of gaining weight.

Purging Type

This is the most common type of bulimia nervosa. Individuals regularly compensate for binge eating with self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse or diuretics. Often confused with the purging type of anorexia, the differences are that individuals with bulimia have a some-what normal BMI, and use purging to maintain/control their weight. Those with the purging type of anorexia are underweight, and have the signs and symptoms of anorexia, but use purging (only sometimes) as a form of losing weight.

Non-Purging Type

This is used to describe individuals who still binge eat, however compensate through dietary fasting or excessive exercising.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Weight can vary, but is within the normal weight range
  • Excessive food intake in a short period of time followed by purging
  • Fear of being overweight
  • Binges triggered by stress, anger, hunger, anxiety, depression, loneliness and/or low self-esteem
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • In general, behaviours and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting and control of food are becoming primary concerns.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental illness, where individuals experience a loss of control and eat large quantities of food on a regular basis. This often results in feelings of illness and guilt. Not to be confused with just “overindulging”, binges are distressing and not enjoyable. People with this disorder find it difficult to control their bingeing and feel disconnected. Binge eating disorder can affect anyone; however, the condition is more common in adults rather than younger people.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Organising life around bingeing episodes
  • Hoarding food
  • Eating when not hungry/uncomfortably full
  • Feelings of shame and guilt after bingeing
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Avoiding eating around others

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

Sometimes, an individual’s symptoms don’t exactly fit those expected of the above eating disorders, which means that they might be diagnosed with “other specified feeding or eating disorder”.

OSFED is still a serious mental illness, and the individuals suffering will still use food as a way to lose/control their weight. Some examples of OSFED include:

  • Atypical Anorexia – Somebody has all the symptoms a doctor looks for to diagnose anorexia, however their weight is in the ‘normal’ range.
  • Bulimia Nervosa (of low frequency and/or limited duration) – Somebody has all the symptoms a doctor looks for to diagnose bulimia, however the binge/purge cycle doesn’t happen as often or over as long a period of time as doctors would expect.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (of low frequency and/or limited duration) – somebody has all the symptoms of binge eating disorder, except the binge doesn’t happen as often or over as long a period of time as doctors would expect.
  • Purging Disorder – Somebody purges to affect their weight or shape, but this isn’t as part of binge/purge cycles.
  • Night Eating Syndrome – Somebody repeatedly eats at night, either after waking up from sleep or eating a lot of food after their evening meal.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety
  • Self-conscious when eating in front of others
  • Pre-occupation with and/or secretive behaviour around food
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low confidence and self-esteem

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, that have a severe impact on health and can take lives. If you or somebody you know is suffering from the signs and symptoms listed above, the first step to get help should be to contact your GP.

Stats and information sourced from: