THE amount of people in Worcestershire being treated for eating disorders has increased by almost half in the past nine years.
Figures released as part of this week’s national Eating Disorders Week show the the Worcestershire Eating Disorder Service has seen an increase in referrals of 48 per cent since 2005.
The surge in referrals to the service run by Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust is being put down to increased awareness of problems associated with eating disorders as well as the care available.
Clinical manager for the service Kay Lobo said it was geared towards providing help in the community to avoid people becoming so unwell they needed hospital treatment.
“Early intervention and treatment can help a sufferer recover more quickly and either prevent hospital admission or shorten the length of their stay,” she said.
“Getting help and being treated early can also help to prevent some of the long term health issues which can be caused by an eating disorder.
“People who develop eating disorders can struggle with a variety of difficulties – it’s not just people who are under weight.
“An eating disorder is about an unhealthy pre-occupation with food, body shape and weight often characterised by irrational thoughts and beliefs and a critical evaluation of themselves.
“These disorders present the sufferer with complex problems, physically, psychologically and socially.”
The service received about 210 referrals a year and provides care tailored to a patient’s individual needs including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, food and nutrition guidance and self-help books.
About 1.6 million people in the UK are believed to be suffering from eating disorders and related illnesses and an increasing amount of people are being admitted to hospital. But this trend is not being followed in Worcestershire, where patients are getting the help they need in the community.
More than half of those suffering with an eating disorder have been diagnosed with EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), meaning their condition cannot be properly defined as either anorexia or bulimia.
Such disorders can also go undetected for long periods of time due to attempts by the patient to hide their problem.
Anyone concerned they may be suffering from an eating disorder should contact their GP, who can make a referral to the Eating Disorder Service if necessary.
For more information on eating disorders visit www.b-eat.co.uk