eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

All About Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is a serious eating disorder where people feel that they have lost control over their eating and evaluate themselves according to their body shape and weight. People with bulimia are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called ‘bingeing’), and then vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics (called purging), in order to prevent gaining weight. This behaviour can dominate daily life and lead to difficulties in relationships and social situations. Usually people hide this behaviour pattern from others and their weight is often in a healthy range. People with bulimia tend not to seek help or support very readily and can experience swings in their mood as well as feeling anxious and tense.

They may also have very low self-esteem and self harm. They may experience symptoms such as tiredness, feeling bloated, constipation, abdominal pain, irregular periods, or occasional swelling of the hands and feet. Excessive vomiting can cause problems with the teeth, while laxative misuse can seriously affect the heart. Bulimia in children and young people is rare, although young people may have some of the symptoms of the condition. Bulimia usually develops at a slightly older age than anorexia. In some instances, although not all, bulimia develops from anorexia.

Behavioural signs

  • Bingeing – eating large amounts of food
  • Purging after bingeing – vomiting, over exercising, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting
  • Preoccupied with thoughts of food and life may be organised around shopping, eating and purging behaviour
  • Usually secretive about bulimic episodes
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious and tense
  • Distorted perception of body shape or weight
  • Feeling of loss of control over eating
  • Feelings of guilt and shame after bingeing and purging Isolation
  • Can be associated with depression, low self-esteem, misuse of alcohol and self-harm

Physical signs of bulimia

Some of the more common signs of bulimia nervosa are:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive exercising
  • Misuse of laxatives and diuretics
  • Disappearing soon after eating
  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Periods stop or are irregular (amenorrhea)
  • Enlarged salivary glands
  • Calluses on the backs of the hand from forcing down throat to vomit
  • Electrolyte abnormalities/ imbalance
  • Gastric problems
  • Regular changes in weight

Worried you have an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are complex; there’s no single cause and not all symptoms will apply to all people. You may feel that you have a mixture of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder or even alternate between them. Some people also find they are affected by other mental health issues, an urge to harm themselves or abuse alcohol or drugs.

Even if you don’t have these symptoms if you are worried and upset by something, anything, it is important you find someone to talk to. Don’t bottle it up.

Sometimes people worry about talking to someone because they feel their eating disorder isn’t serious enough, they don’t want to worry people or waste their time, or because they feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. Whether your eating difficulties began recently, you’ve been struggling for a while or you’re finding yourself relapsing, you deserve support and with this support you can overcome your eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses and you deserve to have your concerns acknowledged respectfully, to be taken seriously and to be supported in the same way as if you were affected by any other illness.

Discover more about the different types of eating disorders or how to access help and treatment as well as information and inspiration about recovery.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

The lack of mental health care available…

It’s an obvious fact that mental health treatment is underfunded in the UK, but the true extent of this under funding has only become more apparent to me in the last couple of weeks.

My mental health has turned downhill gradually over the year and more so in the last few months that I’ve needed to go and seek help for it again. The hardest thing in the world is to go to a doctor and tell them you’re there because your mental health is poor. It’s one of the hardest things to do, especially if you have anxiety and hate the thought of going there. The even harder thing is going and knowing that you possibly may not even get the help you need because of stigma, misunderstanding, the area you’re in and the lack of funding.

Mental health care is a like a lottery. If you live in the right area, you may have access to the help you need. Other areas have less funding and less mental health services available. It makes me feel really sad.

It’s so frustrating. It’s agonising when you’re sat through a suicide crisis at 2:30am in the morning and theres no help at all. The helplines shut at midnight, your GP is closed and you’re too afraid to call out of hours. You feel like your mental health problem is not serious enough for A&E and think the staff there will assume you’re wasting their time. Anyone whose been in this position will know how frightening this situation is…

I’m really hoping one day this will change. I want to make that change. I want to advocate. I want to educate. I want to raise awareness. I want to offer support. I don’t want people to feel like they’re ever alone. I want people to know that someone, somewhere, loves them and cares about their safety.

For help and support visit my mental health support page or email me.

When “I” is replaced by “We” even Illness becomes Wellness.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Suicide Awareness

I agree that suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide. The attitude towards suicide however always amazes me. One person dies every 40 seconds by suicide worldwide – that is an estimate of 1440 deaths by suicide a day! By 2020, the rate of death will increase to every 20 seconds. 2880 people will be dying of suicide a day… How can there be such a negative stigma surrounding suicide when it claims so many lives in simply a day? Suicide has now become one of the three leading causes of death among those aged between 15-44.

 More than 4,000 children under the age of 14 tried to take their own lives in the UK in the year 2007.

During my first suicide attempt at the age of 11, I didn’t have any suicide ideation. I had been bullied for months, probably over a year, and although I felt quite down and isolated, I didn’t feel as though I wanted to die. It was only when I was on a ski holiday with my bullies that things started to turn bad. I was sat on a ski lift with two of the people who had bullied me, and of course there was no escape. The taunting, the physical abuse, the laughter…it was all too much. My suicide ideation happened in a blink of an eye. One minute I was feeling angry at these people for being so mean and the next minute I was lifting up the bar of the ski lift ready to jump. At 11 years old, that’s a pretty scary thing to experience. I can’t remember if I knew about suicide before this attempt…or whether my mind somehow knew what to do. All I knew is that I was trapped and that was the only way of escape.

After that first attempt, suicide ideation has never gone away. Thinking about suicide became a daily task some months, but other months I wouldn’t think about it at all. As I’ve gotten older, the suicidal thoughts have become more frequent. It’s difficult, because suicide should not be ignored. Suicide should not receive negative reaction. A child – or even an adult – should be able to approach someone confidently and tell them they are thinking about suicide. Why are suicidal thoughts downplayed? The time I told my doctor I was feeling suicidal was unreal…her response? “We haven’t got any appointments for another 3 weeks.” I know that you cannot see suicidal thoughts, but they are just as serious as a broken leg.

It can be very difficult and daunting to reach out and ask for help when it comes to suicide ideation…it can be even more difficult when a loved one or someone you know unexpectedly takes their own life. That is why I’d like to educate you on the signs and symptoms of suicide, so that help can be spread to all those suffering.


Warning signs:

A person may be at risk of attempting suicide if they:

  • complain of feelings of hopelessness
  • have episodes of sudden rage and anger
  • act recklessly and engage in risky activities with an apparent lack of concern about the consequences
  • talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they can’t see any way out of their current situation
  • Self harm – including misusing drugs or alcohol, or using more than they usually do
  • noticeably gain or lose weight due to a change in their appetite
  • become increasingly withdrawn from friends, family and society in general
  • appear anxious and agitated
  • are unable to sleep or they sleep all the time
  • have sudden mood swings – a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide
  • talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
  • lose interest in most things, including their appearance
  • put their affairs in order, such as sorting out possessions or making a will

If you notice any of these warning signs in a friend, relative or loved one, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.

Also share your concerns with your doctor or a member of their care team, if they are being treated for a mental health condition.


Offering support to someone who’s feeling suicidal

One of the best things you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen to what they say.

Talking about someone’s problems is not always easy and it may be tempting to try to provide a solution. But often the most important thing you can do to help is listen to what they have to say.

If there is an immediate danger, make sure they are not left on their own.

Do not judge

It’s also important not to make judgements about how a person is thinking and behaving. You may feel that certain aspects of their thinking and behaviour are making their problems worse. For example, they may be drinking too much alcohol.

However, pointing this out will not be particularly helpful to them. Reassurance, respect and support can help someone during these difficult periods.

Asking questions

Asking questions can be a useful way of letting a person remain in control while allowing them to talk about how they’re feeling. Try not to influence what the person says, but give them the opportunity to talk honestly and openly.

Open ended questions such as “Where did that happen?” and “How did that feel?” will encourage them to talk. It’s best to avoid statements that could possibly end the conversation, such as “I know how you feel” and “Try not to worry about it”.

Getting professional help

Although talking to someone about their feelings can help them feel safe and secure, these feelings may not last. It will probably require long-term support to help someone overcome their suicidal thoughts.

This will most likely be easier with professional help. Not only can a professional help deal with the underlying issues behind someone’s suicidal thoughts, they can also offer advice and support for yourself.


Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Monday the 22nd of February to Sunday the 28th February 2016 marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

As many people will know, in 2013 I developed disorded eating and thought patterns that eventually led to a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa.

Anorexia Nervosa is currently the most lethal psychiatric disorder, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. Although Anorexia is by far the deadliest eating disorder, death rates are also higher than normal in people with bulimia and “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS, a common diagnosis for people with a mixture of atypical anorexia and atypical bulimia). Suicide is also a particular risk as 1 in 5 Anorexia death are due to suicide. People diagnosed with Anorexia between the ages of 20 to 29 had a higher death rate (18-fold) with the age group 15-19 following close behind with a ten fold.

Although Anorexia is the most lethal, other eating disorders are just as serious. Other disorders (including Anorexia):

  • anorexia nervosa – when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • bulimia – when a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives (medication to help empty the bowels) to try to control their weight
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – when a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time

Some people, particularly those who are young, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This means you have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.

Spotting the signs of an eating disorder can be difficult. Remember – a person with an eating disorder does NOT have to appear thin or underweight.

Warning signs to look out for include:

  • missing meals
  • complaining of being fat, even though they have a normal weight or are underweight
  • repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror
  • Losing interest in social events, not attending classes or school, becoming withdrawn
  • making repeated claims that they’ve already eaten, or they’ll shortly be going out to eat somewhere else and avoiding eating at home
  • cooking big or complicated meals for other people, but eating little or none of the food themselves
  • only eating certain low-calorie foods in your presence, such as lettuce or celery
  • feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places, such as at a restaurant
  • the use of “pro-anorexia” websites
  • Use of dietary aids such as weight loss products, diuretics and laxatives
  • eating in secret or having days of ‘normal’ eating
  • Using the bathroom frequently after eating

Eating disorders cause a wide variety of complications, some of them life-threatening. The more severe or long lasting the eating disorder, the more likely you are to experience serious complications, such as:

  • Significant medical problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Problems with growth and development
  • Social and relationship problems
  • Substance use disorders
  • Work and school issues
  • Death

So, whose affected by eating disorders?

A 2015 report commissioned by Beat estimates more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Eating disorders tend to be more common in certain age groups, but they can affect people of any age.

Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

Bulimia is around two to three times more common than anorexia nervosa, and 90% of people with the condition are female. It usually develops around the age of 18 or 19.

Binge eating affects males and females equally and usually appears later in life, between the ages of 30 and 40. As it’s difficult to precisely define binge eating, it’s not clear how widespread it is, but it’s estimated to affect around 5% of the adult population.

Be disorder aware this week and reach out to those you feel may be suffering with an Eating Disorder

[credit: NHS UK]

eating-disorder

 

journey to recovery · mental health · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

8 things not to say to someone with mental illness

The 8 things below have been said to me during my battle with mental illness. I’d love to hear the things people have said to you that they shouldn’t have said in regards to your illness!

1. “You have everything going for you. You have people who love you, you’re going to university, you have an amazing family…etc.” Although I appreciate that I’ve gotten into university, that I have people who love me and amazing family…I still have a mental illness. Although I may have ‘everything going for me’ I don’t feel as though I do. I did not decide to have these thoughts or behaviours so please don’t talk as though I can change so easy.

2. “I don’t really think you should be taking your medication, you’ve been on it a while. Maybe you should cut it down or stop it altogether.” My medication allows me to function. If I didn’t take my medication, I’d have panic attacks every single day, even just getting out of bed. At the moment, I do not feel better with a decreased amount of medication. It is not addicting, so please don’t worry.

3. “You can’t be like this forever. You’ll have to get a job, get married, and have a family. How do you expect to get friends or a boyfriend like this?” Many of my mental illnesses have been with me since I was a small child and I’m sure they’re not going to budge any time soon. I don’t know how long my mental illnesses will last, but they will never go away. Someday I may enter recovery, but I will still have mental illness.

4. “You’re just attention seeking.” Trust me; if I could choose not to be mentally ill I would! I didn’t choose this for myself. No way in hell would I want to suffer with deliberating anxiety and depression everyday, with panic attacks and thoughts of self-harm and suicide. I wouldn’t be starving and exercising if I truly loved my body.

5. “You’re not the only one.” I’m aware that around 450 million people in the world suffer with some sort of mental health condition, that doesn’t make it any easier for me. Although I feel for these people and know what they are going through, I cannot get better simply because others suffer too.

6. “Some people have mental illness worse.” I am so aware that people have mental illness worse. I know I am lucky to not suffer from debilitating hallucinations and voices 24 hours a day, but everyone with mental illness struggles, whether it be because of Anxiety or Schizophrenia.

7. “Don’t you want to get better?” Of course I don’t want to be this way forever but it has been the only way that I know. Mental illnesses has become a safety blanket which makes it difficult to imagine a life without it.

8. “Everyone feels the same way sometimes.” Although everyone experiences a range of emotions, not everyone has a mental illness. Everyone gets sad, but not everyone experiences the hopeless pit of despair that comes with Depression.  Being anxious for the dentist is not the same as having a panic attack.

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