Eating Disorders

An eating disorder can be characterised as a psychological disorder which affects a person’s physical and emotional health, centring around a complex and difficult relationship with food; this can be in terms of the individual’s thoughts alone, or of their thoughts and actions.

Someone who suffers from an eating disorder will typically find their anxieties around food entering into their daily life and interfering with their routine. It is estimated that over 1.6 million people in the United Kingdom suffer from eating disorders.

What are the different types of eating disorders?

There are a wide variety of different eating disorders, but some of the most prevalent ones include :

1) Anorexia Nervosa (and Atypical Anorexia),

2) Bulimia Nervosa

3) Binge-Eating Disorder.




Anorexia Nervosa is where a person controls and restricts their calorie intake dramatically, in an attempt to keep their weight as low as possible. People who suffer from this type of eating disorder often hold an extremely negative and distorted view of themselves.


This is one of the reasons it can be better to avoid commenting on an anorexic sufferer’s appearance, because they may find it hard to really hear what you are saying, without distorting it to match their current belief system.


People who suffer from anorexia may also engage in ritualistic exercises, such as an excessive amount of sit-ups or push-ups on a daily basis.


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These are further attempts to ward off their biggest fear — gaining weight — and can be particularly dangerous for extreme cases, putting their body under further strain. Health issues can include cardiac complications, seizures, low bone density and fertility issues.


A typical Anorexia is also a recognised disorder, similar to anorexia in terms of distorted thought patterns, and in the impact it has on a person’s daily life, but differing in terms of the fact the sufferer’s weight remains ‘healthy’.


They may well even look healthy but inside, they suffer in very similar ways to people with anorexia nervosa. This can make it difficult for a person to seek professional help, as they do not always feel ‘recognised’ as having an eating disorder.


It is vital that people with both atypical anorexia and anorexia nervosa receive support and treatment, in order to avoid their condition becoming life-threatening.




Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by a person consuming a large amount of food (bingeing), and then trying to reverse the physical and emotional feelings that result from this, by vomiting (purging), taking laxatives, exercising excessively, or not allowing themselves to eat again for prolonged periods of time.


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Bulimia shares with anorexia a preoccupation with physical appearance and the desire to keep weight down. It is extremely distressing for the individual as they recognise the binge-and-purge routine that they are stuck in, but feel unable to address it effectively.


It can also be difficult for others to intervene because they may not notice there is an issue: someone suffering from bulimia may look normal, or sometimes even slightly overweight. Even if the sufferer’s weight is stable, bulimia can lead to a variety of serious health problems, such as tooth decay, gum disease, erosion of the tooth’s enamel (from the acidity caused by repeated vomiting), and even life-threatening heart issues.


Binge-Eating Disorder


While Binge-Eating Disorder is not an eating disorder necessarily spoken about enough, it is an extremely serious issue for many people.


This condition can be similar to bulimia, but without purging the food after having consumed it. When so many ‘healthy eating’ programmes target weight-loss and send the clear message that people must be stricter on themselves, this does not always address why they are overeating in the first place.


Many people who suffer with overeating disorders cannot simply ‘stop eating so much’.


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They have a genuine compulsive urge to consume a large amount of food and this can be just as distressing and physically dangerous as other eating disorders. For example, it can cause obesity, sleep apnea, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis too.


Emotionally, there is usually a reason behind this disorder, whether it is low self-esteem, past trauma, or a newly established coping strategy.


It is crucial that individuals seek help so that they can get to the root of their problem.


Signs that your loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder


It can be difficult to notice the early signs of an eating disorder, and not all signs will apply for everyone, but some things to look out for in a loved one may be:


  • A drastic change in their weight;


  • Negative comments about their appearance, and their weight in particular;


  • An eagerness to prepare food for others, but not to consume it themselves;


  • Reluctance to eat in front of others, and a defensive attitude when asked about eating generally;


  • Low mood and low self-esteem;


  • Seeming detached or permanently drawn and tired;


Extended periods of time spent in the bathroom, especially directly after mealtimes.


If you fear a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, it is best to stay focused on the concern that you feel for their well-being, as opposed to making specific comments about their appearance, as we can otherwise risk colluding with what the eating disorder is already doing.


This can be very difficult for friends and families, but it is important to remain as open as possible to someone experiencing this eating disorder, so that they can seek help out, should they feel able to, and can then tackle the underlying cause of the illness.


Seeking help for an eating disorder


If someone is struggling with an eating disorder, the earlier the therapeutic intervention can be delivered to them, the better their chance of recovery.


Initially, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor if you think you may have an eating disorder yourself.


If you feel like someone you care about may be suffering from an eating disorder, you can encourage them to seek professional help.


In a safe and therapeutic environment, individuals can explore their current thought processes and eating patterns.


Once there is a greater level of understanding about these beliefs, they can then move on to challenge them at a pace that feels manageable for them. Alongside this, the individual can begin to learn more positive ways of seeing themselves, and techniques to manage the anxiety that change can inevitably bring about.


Recovery from an eating disorder is a process that is unique for every individual, as there are specific causes, symptoms, and triggers for each person.


It is important to address these in order to help the person heal from their past pain and to arrive at a state of acceptance of themselves.




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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.