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Eating Disorders Awareness Week With Dr. Philip MacMahon

Monday, 23 February 2009

The most recent report (January 2006) published on Eating Disorders estimates that up to 200,000 people in Ireland are affected by eating disorders. It is also estimated from this report that 1 in 200 women are affected by bulimia and 1 in 50 by anorexia.

Who Are The Guests?
Dr. Philip MacMahon, Afternoon Show Family Doctor
Fiona McCann, was affected by anorexia

Most Recent Stats on Eating Disorders
In terms of general statistics on eating disorders
. The Department of Health document, 'A Vision for Change', published in January 2006, estimated that up to 200,000 people in Ireland are affected by eating disorders.
. Eating disorders are most prevalent amongst women aged 15-40, where up to 0.5% (1 in 200) may be affected by anorexia and up to 2% (1 in 50) may be affected by bulimia
. Binge eating disorder affects up to 4% of the population, male and female.
. 10% of cases of anorexia and bulimia are thought to be in men, though the figure may be as high as 25%

Some more recent statistics

. The Health Research Board's annual analysis of inpatient psychiatric care in Ireland showed that 15% of all child and adolescent patients admitted for psychiatric care in Ireland in 2007 were diagnosed with an eating disorder - this is the second highest rate of diagnosis, the first being depressive disorders (24%).
. The UK Care Minister revealed in answer to a parliamentary question this week that the number of girls under 16 admitted to hospitals in England with a diagnosis of anorexia has risen by 80% in the last decade.
. A 2007 study by Professor Fiona McNicholas of the Lucena Clinic, Rathgar, found that up to 1.2% of Irish girls (12-18) were at risk of developing anorexia nervosa, and up to 2% were at risk of developing bulimia nervosa.

What Are Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are complex, life-threatening conditions from which people can and do get better with appropriate treatment. Eating disorders can affect anyone. They can be seen as a way of coping with unmanageable feelings.

The term 'eating disorder' refers to a group of conditions characterised by:
. Severe disturbances in eating.
. Emotional and psychological distress.
. Physical consequences.

People experiencing an eating disorder share many of the following features:
. A history of dieting.
. Low self esteem.
. Marked over-concern with body weight, shape and size and obsession with food.
. Thinness is seen as a magical solution to problems while weight gain is feared.
. Difficulty identifying and expressing needs.
. Distorted body image (perceiving your body as larger than it actually is).
. Problems around control.
. Difficulty talking about feelings and dealing with conflict.
. Depressed and withdrawal from contact with others.
. Mood swings.

The Main Eating Disorders
Although the term 'eating disorder' is applied to a wide range of disturbed eating behaviours, only three conditions are listed in official classifications of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Most people do not fall within the strict diagnostic criteria of any one eating disorder.

A person experiencing Anorexia Nervosa will make determined efforts to attain and maintain a body weight lower than the normal body weight for their age, sex, and height. They will be preoccupied with thoughts about food and the need to lose weight. They may also exercise excessively and may engage in purging behaviours. Statistics show that anorexia most commonly occurs among adolescent girls and young women in their early twenties but recent studies suggest an increased incidence among males and among children.

Bulimia Nervosa involves repeated episodes of binge eating followed by high-risk behaviours aimed at compensating for the binges. These can include fasting, excessive exercising, self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, diuretics or other medications. Most people with bulimia maintain a body weight within the normal range for their age, sex and height. It is therefore less obvious than anorexia and can remain unnoticed for longer. Bulimia occurs predominantly among women between the ages of 15 and 25. The incidence among both males and females is thought to be rising.

Binge Eating Disorder (sometimes referred to as Compulsive Overeating) involves repeated episodes of bingeing but without purging. Over time, binge eating disorder (BED) can result in significant weight gain, though this is not always the case. A person experiencing BED finds themselves locked into a lonely cycle of dieting, bingeing, self recrimination and self loathing. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, binge-eating disorder is thought to be almost as common among men as it is among women. It is believed that the number of people who binge-eat far exceeds the number who present for treatment.

If you're concerned about a loved one, what should you be on the lookout for?
In the early stages, it can be challenging to tell the difference between an eating disorder and normal self-consciousness, weight concerns, or dieting. As eating disorders progress, the red flags become easier to spot. But a person with an eating disorder will often go to great lengths to hide the problem, so it's important to know the warning signs.

Warning Signs
Restricting food or dieting
The most obvious warning signs of eating disorders involve restrictive eating behaviors. A friend or family member with an eating disorder may frequently skip meals or make excuses to avoid eating-he or she had a big meal earlier, isn't hungry, or has an upset stomach. The person may also claim to be disgusted by foods that used to be favorites.
When your loved one does eat, he or she may take tiny servings, eat only specific low-calorie foods, or obsessively count calories, read food labels, and weigh portions. In an effort to curb appetite, your friend or family member may also take diet pills, prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin, or even illegal drugs such as speed.

Some people with eating disorders eat normally around others, only to binge in secret-usually late at night or in a private spot where they won't be discovered or disturbed. Warning signs of bingeing include piles of empty food packages and wrappers, cupboards and refrigerators that have been cleaned out, and hidden stashes of high-calorie foods such as desserts and junk food.

People with eating disorders often go to extreme measures to work off calories from a binge or even a normal snack or meal. They may purge by throwing up, fasting, exercising vigorously, or using diuretics and laxatives. Common warning signs of purging include disappearing right after a meal or making frequent trips to the bathroom. If your friend or family member is vomiting, he or she may run the water to muffle the sound and use mouthwash, breath mints, or perfume to disguise the smell.

Distorted body image and altered appearance
A loved one's appearance can also offer clues to an underlying problem. Significant weight loss, rapid weight gain, and constantly fluctuating weight are all possible warning signs. A person with an eating disorder may also wear baggy clothes or multiple layers in an attempt to hide dramatic weight loss.

Other warning signs include a distorted self-image or an obsessive preoccupation with weight. A relative complains about being fat despite a dramatically shrinking frame, for example, or a friend spends hours in front of the mirror, inspecting and criticizing her body.

Common eating disorder warning signs
. Preoccupation with body or weight
. Obsession with calories, food, or nutrition x
. Constant dieting, even when thin
. Rapid, unexplained weight loss or weight gain x
. Taking laxatives or diet pills
. Compulsive exercising
. Making excuses to get out of eating x (told them she'd eaten)
. Avoiding social situations that involve food (anxiety inducing circumstances,always looked)
. Going to the bathroom right after meals
. Eating alone, at night, or in secret
. Hoarding high-calorie food

"Eating Disorders: It's not really about food"
Friday February 20th
Public information talk by Bodywhys Services Co-ordinator Harriet Parsons
Independent Colleges, 60-63 Dawson Street, Dublin 2: 6-7pm
Entry is free and open to all

"Understanding Eating Disorders"
Monday February 23rd
Bodywhys Information Evening in conjunction with St. John of God Hospital Spring Lecture Series
St John of God Hospital, Stillorgan
Talk begins at 8pm and will be followed by a panel discussion with Dr T Larkin and Harriet Parsons
Entry is free and open to all

"Eating Disorders in Adolescents"
Tuesday February 24th
Parents evening featuring presentations by Professor Fiona McNicholas, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, and Jacinta Hastings, CEO of Bodywhys
Lucena Clinic, 59 Orwell Road, Rathgar, D6: 7pm-8:30pm
Entry is free but booking is essential - please call 01 499 9349

Presentation on Eating Disorders to GPs
Thursday February 26th
Talk for General Practitioners by Dr John Griffin, Programme Director of St Patrick's Hospital Eating Disorders Programme, and Harriet Parsons, Services Co-ordinator for Bodywhys
St Patrick's Hospital, James' Street, Dublin 1: 7-9pm
This talk is for registered GPs only

Survey Day in Carlow

Our Carlow Support Group will be holding a 'survey day' in the Superquinn centre in Carlow on Thursday February 26th to raise awareness of the local support group and of the issues around eating disorders.