“Why Wait?” is this year’s BEAT Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) topic of conversation which is bringing to light the vital importance of early care and treatment for all eating disorders. Taken from BEAT’s website I found out that:
“On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days.”
There is a mixture of individuals fearing to ask for help, and also knowing that there isn’t the right quality of care available for their issues. Although this campaign for sufferers to seek help as early as possible is very positive, this still isn’t tackling a deeper issue with the system for eating disorder care, particularly within the NHS. The point I want to make about the way that we see and act around eating disorders is, why is there still such great emphasis on the weight of an individual who is suffering from a mental illness?
Through my own experience of having an eating disorder, there have been many occasions where the services and care I received depended heavily upon my physiological state as opposed to my mental welfare. So-called professionals were basing the severity of my eating disorder on the physical symptoms over the mental ones, causing me to believe that I clearly didn’t deserve or need to be treated for anorexia as I wasn’t a certain weight for my height on the BMI scale.
Back in 2013 when I was still at home, and having a weekly session with my community support worker. It was just like any other session until she started asking me about where I believed my care in the community was heading. I was stumped, unable to respond. What happened next I will never forget. She proceeded to pull out the NHS BMI chart and point to where I was currently at, which for reference was right at the bottom of the severe category. She went on to say that in order to receive any form of treatment for anorexia nervosa, I needed to fall into the critical category.
From that point on my weight rapidly deteriorated even more than before, until my body couldn’t cope anymore. I was hospitalised three months later.
In the latest version of the DSM (Diagnostic Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders) it is reported that 40% of eating disorder sufferers are diagnosed as bulimic, 10% anorexic, and 50% Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). That gives such a wide spectrum of physical symptoms and behaviours that are being placed into one system that is fixated on the physiological and aesthetical appearance of individuals.
You can’t tell if a person has an eating disorder just based on how they look. This is a mental health illness by definition and should be respected, treated and care for as such. In fact, this goes for all forms of mental health issues, to which I will personally keep speaking out about as much as possible for positive changes to be made to how we all deal with them in society.
We have been putting suffers into boxes and sticking labels on them for far too long, and so it is about time that things began to change now, in order to prevent the longevity of a person suffering and for their chances of recovery to increase further by receiving the right treatment as early as possible.
Join in BEAT’s EDAW event#SockItForEatingDisorders by sporting a funky pair of socks to help raise awareness and get conversations started about eating disorders!