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The 22nd-28th February is Eating Disorders Awareness Week organised by the charity Beat, the UK’s leading charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape.

Food and the act of eating is an essential part of our survival. But some people may start to develop an unusual relationship with food (e.g. relying on food to fulfill an emotional need) and form unhealthy eating habits that can lead to a wide range of negative physiological, social, physical and psychological consequences.

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are a wide range of mental health conditions where people develop an abnormal attitude towards food and eating. They affect people psychologically and physically, causing them to change their eating habits and behaviour. They come in many forms, but the most common of them include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. There are also many variants when it comes to eating disorders, but they all feature serious and alarming disturbances in eating behaviour and extreme efforts to manage weight or food intake.

Who does it affect?

Statistics reveal that about 1.6 million people in the UK are suffering from some form of an eating disorder. It affects both the male and female population, although rates among women and girls are 2½ times greater than among men and boys. Eating disorders frequently develop during teen years or young adulthood but in some cases may also appear during childhood or later in life.

It’s more than just about food

It’s important to note though that the source of the anxiety/stress usually has little or nothing to do with food, body image or appearance, but is more often associated with a feeling of a lack of control or build-up of anxiety in other areas of the sufferer’s life. Eating disorders are serious mental and psychological health concerns that are often linked with issues like depression, substance abuse, stress, anger, anxiety disorder and low self-esteem.

Why use Hypnotherapy for Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are real, but absolutely treatable mental illnesses which can become life-threatening if a person does not receive proper and effective help (e.g. anorexia is associated with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder). One form of help, which can be effective is Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH). When applied to eating disorders, SFH can help clients overcome conditions brought about by our inappropriate responses to stress and helps them to regain a sense of intellectual control and proper perspective in their lives. By focusing on the solutions rather than dwelling on the problems themselves, we reduce the anxiety and other negative responses, and clients begin to have a more positive and healthy relationship with food.