CASES of deadly illnesses are on the rise in men and boys across England, data has revealed.
In the last five years, hospital admissions for people with eating disorders have risen by 84 per cent.
Medics as the Royal College of Psychiatrists found there were 11,049 more admissions for illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia in 2020/21 than in 2015/16, bringing the total to 24,268 admissions across England.
Of those, a stark rise was seen in boys and young men, from 280 hospital admissions in 2015/16 to 637 in 2020/2021.
Eating disorders take a huge toll on the people that suffer with them and are often referred to as the ‘deadliest mental health condition’.
One in five deaths of people with anorexia are due to suicide, while all eating disorders see high rates of self-harm and depression.
Admissions in children have also risen in recent years, going from 3,541 to 6,713, with a 35 per cent increase in the last year alone as the Covid pandemic hit.
Medics have now launched new guidelines to help doctors identify those who might be at risk.
They stated that the signs someone is dangerously ill can be missed by GPs.
The report found that many patients who are suffering with an eating disorder will often have normal blood work – meaning the alarm isn’t raised for doctors.
People with anorexia can also have dangerously low levels of electrolytes like potassium – that are not reflected in these tests.
Those who suffer with bulimia can also have disturbances and struggle with stomach problems.
They may also be a normal weight and it was previously found that people were being denied help if their Body Mass Index (BMI) was too high.
Dr Dasha Nicholls, who chaired the development of the new medical emergencies in eating disorders guidelines said awareness of common symptoms needs to be raised.
The 13 signs you must watch out for include:
- Have become withdrawn
- Spending lots of time worrying about weight and body shape
- Avoiding socialising
- Eating very little food
- Someone having bad breath or smelling of sick
- Anxious and depressed
- Strict habits and rules around food
- Exercising more
- Dramatic weight loss
- Cutting food into small pieces
- Lying about food and weight
- Wearing loose or baggy clothes
- Going to the bathroom after eating
Dr Nicholls added: “Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating don’t discriminate, and can affect people of any age and gender.
“They are mental health disorders, not a ‘lifestyle choice’, and we shouldn’t underestimate how serious they are.
“Even though anorexia nervosa is often referred to as the deadliest mental health condition, most deaths are preventable with early treatment and support.
“Full recovery is possible if spotted and treated early.”
Current guidance, Dr Nicholls said, is poorly misunderstood – leading to devastating consequences for thousands of parents and their families.
She added that in order to stop the ‘eating disorder epidemic’ in its tracks then new guidance needs to be implemented.
An NHS spokesperson said that demand for services has increased significantly over the pandemic.
“With the NHS treating a third more children and young people than it did two years ago, it is important that all healthcare professionals are supported to better understand and respond to signs that someone is seriously ill with an eating disorder.
“Parents can also find information on potential symptoms, such as binge eating, feeling guilty after eating, negative self-image, and other signs of a potential eating disorder on the NHS website, and they should not hesitate to contact the NHS if they or their child need support.”
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