Psychiatrists say too many young people are dying from eating disorders whose lives could have been saved with early treatment and help.
New guidelines for all healthcare professionals in the UK explain how to spot the signs of people at risk and how best to treat them.
Hospitalisations for people with eating disorders in England have increased by 84% over the past five years.
Charities say they are very concerned about the impact on all age groups.
Royal College of Psychiatrists’ guide to medical emergencies for eating disorders All medical professionals, no matter where they work, are increasingly likely to come into contact with people with severe eating disorders who need urgent care.
The Covid pandemic has exacerbated an already growing problem of eating disorders among young people, with mental health charities saying lockdowns in particular are having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable.
Latest data from the NHS It showed 24,268 people were admitted to hospital for eating disorders in England in 2020-21, up from 13,219 in 2015-16, with the largest increase in people aged 18 and under.
The vast majority of those affected were young women, but hospital admissions for young men more than doubled during this period.
“It was horrible to hear the staff didn’t know how to help”
James Downs, 32, developed anorexia at 15 after a series of mental health problems – but it took him almost seven years to see food from a cardiac arrhythmologist, Because where he lives in South Wales it doesn’t.
“No one has the specialized skills to help me,” he said.
When James ended up in the general ward, staff told him publicly that no one knew what to do.
“I’m already in a crisis and I’m very scared, but hearing about it scares me even more,” James said.
“If they panic, that’s pretty scary to me.»
James’ health has deteriorated over the years, and although he appears healthy, he has been admitted to the hospital more than 20 times. These are often dangerously low potassium levels or heart problems — two consequences of malnutrition.
“It shouldn’t be necessary,” he said.
Often, medical professionals are unsure of the language used around eating disorders and often dismiss their problems.
He found it “tiring and really difficult” to navigate the healthcare system while having to repeat his story to countless different people.
“It comes down to training and awareness. Getting help early could prevent so many people from being admitted to hospital.
“We need informed care, not negative experiences. »
People with eating disorders can look healthy even when they are seriously ill.
To help identify those at risk, the guide contains practical tools and treatment advice for everyone from nurses to physiotherapists, A&E doctors, GPs and nutritionists, as well as caregivers and patients.
Psychiatrists began updating the guidelines in 2019 after discovering the “tragic cases” of three young people, including 19-year-old Avril Hart, who died of anorexia in 2012 after collapsing in her college apartment .
Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating affect people of all ages and genders and are not a lifestyle choice, said Dr. Dasha Nicholls, a child and adolescent eating disorder psychiatrist who led the work on the guidelines.
“These are mental health disorders and we should not underestimate their seriousness.
“Although anorexia nervosa is often considered the deadliest mental health condition, most deaths can be prevented with early treatment and support,” she said.
Dr Nichols said the new guidelines needed to be urgently made available to medical professionals if the eating disorder epidemic was to be stopped “on its track”.
Tom Quinn, from eating disorder charity Beat, said he hoped the advice would “make a huge difference” because the sooner they got help, the better their chances of avoiding hospitalisation and making a full recovery.
But he said he was “very concerned” about the increase in hospital admissions for eating disorders across all age groups.
He said the pandemic had had a huge impact on services already under pressure.
“Frontline workers work tirelessly to support as many people as possible, but they can’t do this without adequate staff and funding, and the government must prioritise this,” he said.
Health and Social Care England said it would invest £53 million in services for children and adolescents with eating disorders to increase the capacity of 70 community support teams across the country.
A further £79 million has been invested in children’s mental health services so that at least 2,000 more children and young people have access to eating disorder services, he said.
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article Eating disorder cases in England hospitals rise 84% in five years first appeared in Zimo News.