Tag Archives: eating disorders

Not thin enough for treatment – Wera Hobhouse highlights stigma around eating disorders

In a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Wera Hobhouse outlined how sufferers of eating disorders are being failed by health and support services. Lack of training can mean that doctors make things worse. She told the story of a young woman in her constituency who suffered for three years and never received the help that she needed.

Her aim was to look at the stigma around eating disorders and suggest solutions – one of which was the Lib Dem policy of giving young people access to child and adolescent mental health services until the age of 25. Here’s her speech in full:

We probably all know at least one sufferer or ex-sufferer of an eating disorder. As one put it to me, eating disorders are the easiest thing to get into and the hardest to get out of. We have come a long way in recent years, but we are nowhere near to providing lasting, successful treatments for hundreds of thousands of people. Many people are suffering alone and in silence, without a support network. We are failing as a society to support people in their deeply personal battles.

This debate is about stigma. There are two stigmas around eating disorders—that from outside and that which sufferers feel themselves. The result is that people often wait a long time before asking for help.

It takes an average of 58 weeks from someone realising that they have a problem to them seeking help from a GP. That is more than a year of self-doubt, self-loathing and self-harm. On average, it is a further 27 weeks until the start of treatment. Add to that the time that the person has suffered with a disorder before admitting that there is a problem and we start to see the real picture.

Anybody who has had a close family member in such a situation will understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, but families are often pretty helpless too, if they do not really understand what can be done and how they can help their family member to get out of the problem. It is a form of addiction, and like with any other addiction, family members are co-sufferers. They want to help but do not really understand the deep-seated problems. Family members are important, but we need the professionals and their understanding to help families get through together. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that families are incredibly important.

Eating disorders define large periods of people’s lives. How can we shorten that time? We need people to be okay with saying, “I’m not okay.” We need to tackle the stigma around eating disorders, and the message needs to get through to a lot of people. More than 1 million people in the UK have an eating disorder; three quarters are women and one quarter are men. That is a very large number, plus there are the friends and family who suffer with them. So many people with conditions such as anorexia and bulimia blame themselves. It is not their fault and we need to make sure that they know that.

When I announced on Twitter that I was holding this debate, I received a wave of emotional responses and personal stories. Yesterday, a local doctor dropped into my office a book that she had written, which described her fight with eating disorders since the age of 13. That shows how early it can start.​

I also got an email from a young woman called Lorna, who experienced serious anorexia while studying in my constituency in Bath. This is what she told me:

“I ended up with an initial diagnosis of anxiety and depression, and was started on antidepressants. I suspended my studies and worked as a carer in my local village, living at home with my mum and brother. People I’d known all my life began commenting on the weight I’d lost, and telling me how good I looked. This is when my anorexia began to take full hold.

I stopped eating completely, lying to my mum and saying I’d eaten at work, began over-exercising compulsively, and remember pacing the corridors at work to burn extra calories. I became obsessed. I weighed myself up to 12 times a day.

My mum was terrified, and didn’t know what to do. Eventually she came with me to my GP and I told him everything. I told him I was petrified of putting on weight, exercising excessively and skipping nearly every meal. His response was ‘Oh, that’ll be your antidepressants.’ He took me off a high dose, there and then. Cold turkey.

Each time…I told him how out of control I felt with my eating. He’d force me onto the scales, shaking and crying, and then tell me my BMI was ‘healthy’ and I didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria. I was devastated. I had opened up and was denied help. I never got diagnosed with anorexia, despite going from a size 16 to a size 8 in less than a year.

I went through the monthly humiliation of being dragged onto scales and told I wasn’t thin enough to be helped yet. And not having that formal diagnosis is hard. When I tell people I was anorexic, they never quite believe me, as even doctors didn’t. I think they always assume I was being dramatic, or ‘it wasn’t that bad then’. Today, I am weight-restored, although struggle with now being overweight.

It took me 3 years to recover. 3 years of misery and obsession. I was dangerously unwell, but not sick enough to get an ounce of support.”

When I read that story, I am amazed by how brave Lorna is. She was brave to ask for treatment and even braver to put her trust into the medical system a second time, even after she did not receive the treatment that she really needed. She was very brave to tell her story. Lorna has gone on to campaign for proper treatment for eating disorders. She is here in the Chamber, and I want to thank her personally for letting me share her story—Lorna, thank you. I am so sorry that you had to go through such an awful experience. I know your words will help others, and I desperately hope that together we can improve the treatment and care of those with eating disorders and end the stigma for good.

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16 October 2018 – today’s press releases…

Welcome to the second day of our week of publishing the Party’s press releases as we receive them. Do let us know in the comments if you find this valuable…

Government must improve care for those with eating disorders

Today Wera Hobhouse will lead a Westminster Hall debate on the role stigma plays in preventing people with eating disorders from accessing early treatment.

Eating disorders affect 1.25 million people in the UK and despite evidence showing early intervention is critical to a recovery, people wait three-and-a-half years, on average, between the onset of symptoms and starting treatment.

Liberal Democrat MP for Bath Wera …

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Does Vince look fat in this?

Not a question I’ve heard, but I got your attention!

The way we view men and women is still fundamentally flawed. I imagine our Lib Dem male MPs have several suits they use in cycle, only having to choose a shirt and tie.

But our women MPs? It’s a different matter, though it shouldn’t be. I imagine hair, makeup, matching shoes, accessories and the right outfit for the right occasion are all things our women MPs think about. Why??

As a prospective parliamentary candidate, one of the women-only training sessions I attended was on image. I …

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Norman Lamb writes… Better care for eating disorders is a top priority

Charlotte Robinson was an incredibly bright, energetic, and well-liked young woman. She was working towards her A-levels, and hoping to attend Cambridge University. But days before her results arrived, Charlotte died. An eating disorder had left her dangerously weak, and she lost her fight with a sudden bout of pneumonia. When her A-level results arrived, she had achieved four As.

The inquest heard it had taken five weeks between Charlotte seeing her GP and an assessment being carried out by a mental health nurse, and it then took another month for any help to start. …

Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments

Nick Clegg announces £150 million to help young people with eating disorders

Nick, Ibrahim and Norman in Brent mental health visitYesterday, Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb visited a youth centre in Brent where they announced £150 million was being invested in services to help young people with eating disorders. From the BBC:

Mr Clegg will say he wants to see services transformed, with the focus shifted from expensive institutional care to targeted community-based provision.

Eating disorders cost the NHS around £200m a year, and the bill for in-patient care averages out at £98,750 per admission.

From 2012 to 2013, there were 2,560 hospital admissions for eating disorders in England – a rise of 8% on the previous year.

One in five of those taken into hospital with an eating disorder was admitted and discharged on the same day.

But one in 17 stayed in hospital for longer than six months.

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Jo Swinson urges action to help young develop positive body image

Scottish Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and MP for East Dunbartonshire Jo Swinson, has again urged advertisers and retailers to use models covering a diverse of sizes, ages and shapes in their advertising and media campaigns to reflect the reality of different body shapes and to promote healthy body image.

Co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence, Jo is currently chairing a Parliamentary Inquiry into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety.

Her calls come as the retail market floods with health fads and “miracle weight-loss products screaming out at people to diet as part of New Year resolutions.  Jo  is concerned that this will …

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