UOKM8? - From My Experience: Eating Disorders
By their nature, eating disorders are secretive and stigmatised. Yet, they can affect everyone, regardless of age or gender.
Seeking help is hard enough, but it's made even more difficult when you feel like you don't match the perception of an eating disorder. We need to break down stigmas associated with eating disorders to help people get the help they need.
Georgia, a 22-year-old journalist, and Ben, a 25-year-old public speaker, have told LADbible about their experiences.
Mental health charity Mind defines an eating disorder as a medical diagnosis based on your eating patterns and medical tests on your weight, blood and body mass index (BMI). There are different types of eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia.
But what does an eating disorder look like in real life?
It's not just family and friends who struggle to identify eating disorders; the person who's struggling themselves can even miss the signs.
Georgia explained: "I let it go on for longer because I was like, 'no there's nothing wrong with me, you're complaining about nothing - you're not dangerously ill'."
"I thought you had to be really skinny to have a problem with eating."
Jo Loughran, director of Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign, says this is a common misconception.
Shesaid: "Many people who are struggling remain within the normal weight range or are overweight."
And even though Ben was hospitalised and had to be nose fed, he didn't think anything was wrong with him because he's a bloke. He said: "I knew anorexia was a thing but I didn't think it was a thing in men."
Let's make this loud and clear. Eating disorders impact both men and women of all ages.
Jo explains the importance of having supportive family and friends:
She said: "Struggling with something that everyone else seems to find normal and easy can be very lonely. Many people who struggle with their eating will feel intense shame about the things they've been doing."
Ben used to feel guilty about the strain his eating disorder put on his family.
He said: "My sister was in her last year of uni and I was worrying that me being in hospital was gonna put stress on her. Then she's going to fail her degree and that will be all my fault."
And when Ben was released from the hospital and went back to college, he was worried his friends wouldn't want to associate with someone who was 'mental'. Thankfully that wasn't the case.
He said: "The first day I went back it was like being back at school again, before I got ill. Everybody just welcomed me with open arms."
So, how can you help a mate with an eating disorder?
Jo said: "You don't have to understand why they are feeling the way they do, but letting them know that you understand it is hard, and that you are still there for them and don't judge them, can be a huge relief for them to hear."
Georgia explained that her mum and dad would argue about the latter saying 'the wrong thing' but looking back she acknowledged that the fact that he was there for her was the most important thing.
When someone we care about is struggling, our first reaction is to try and fix it and make them better as quickly as possible.
But for someone experiencing an eating disorder, this isn't always the best option and as Jo said, "unless they've asked for advice directly, it might be best just to listen."
UOKM8? is a campaign by LADbible, featuring films and stories that provide advice and inspiration on mental health. Explore more here and don't suffer in silence. Let's talk mental health.
MIND: 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans: 116 123.
CALM: Outside London 0808 802 5858, inside London 0800 58 58 58.