It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week (27 February–5 March 2017). To help raise awareness of these mental illnesses, forthcoming author Emma Woolf explores this year’s key theme, Early Intervention.
One of the single most important aspects of the treatment of eating disorders is early intervention. It is clear that the sooner one intervenes to tackle disordered eating, the more effectively it can be treated. This is simply because disordered eating becomes habitual – and human beings are creatures of habit. The spiral of self-starving or binge-purging can be hard to escape.
‘One of the single most important aspects of the treatment of eating disorders is early intervention.’
Early intervention is also essential from a health perspective: while early-onset eating disorders (i.e. before puberty) are relatively rare, the number of children developing them does appear to be increasing. The damage of a childhood eating disorder, in physical, social, educational and emotional terms, can be even more severe than eating disorders in adolescents and adults as it occurs at a time of crucial development, and could lead to delayed maturation and stunted growth, among other things.
‘The number of children developing [eating disorders] does appear to be increasing.’
Socially, individuals with eating disorders also suffer isolation and depression, which in turn affects their education, work and family lives. Physical, social and emotional problems tend to intensify the longer the illness goes on, and the illness becomes more difficult (and expensive) to treat.
‘Early intervention is essential from a health perspective.’
For all these reasons, spotting the warning signs and understanding the symptoms is imperative for effective mental health treatment. Early intervention is essential in this process.
Emma Woolf is a writer and journalist. Born and brought up in London, she studied English at Oxford University. She worked in publishing for ten years before going freelance and now writes for The Times, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia, Red, Psychologies and Top Sante, among others. Her media appearances include Newsnight, and Woman’s Hour and she was a co-presenter on Channel 4’s Supersize vs Superskinny.
Emma is the great-niece of Virginia Woolf and her previous books include bestselling An Apple a Day (2012), The Ministry of Thin (2013), Letting Go (2015), and Positively Primal (2016.)
Emma recently talked about the importance of healthy role models and going back to basics with exercise and diet regimes at Food Matters Live. You can still catch up here.
This is an edited extract from Emma’s forthcoming book, The A-Z of Eating Disorders out this September.