Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have devastating long-term consequences and may even be fatal if not treated early. We estimate that at least 725,000 people in the UK of all ages, genders and backgrounds have an eating disorder, but due to misconceptions and lack of recognition among sufferers and those around them, the real number may be higher.
Early intervention is key for someone with an eating disorder if they are to have the greatest chance of recovery. But sufferers face barriers to early intervention, among them a lack of public awareness about early signs and symptoms, misconceptions among GPs, and limited funding for treatment. All these obstacles need to be addressed. This briefing focuses on the critical role of GPs.
Many GPs are not equipped to help sufferers of eating disorders into treatment. Without more training on eating disorders, many are not able to recognise these serious illnesses. From our survey of almost 1700 people with experience of eating disorders, either their own or that of someone they know, it’s clear that getting help from a GP is a lottery for sufferers. When we asked respondents to our survey to focus on the first time they sought help from a GP about their eating disorder they told us:
Beat is focused on early intervention to ensure those that need help receive it as soon as possible.
But we can’t do it alone. Beat is calling for the following: