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

Subtle Signs Someone You Love May Have An Eating Disorder

Some eating disorder signs are obvious: dramatic weight loss, a refusal to eat, retreating to the bathroom for long periods after meals. But anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder also reveal themselves in more subtle ways.

We’d like them to be easy to diagnose, but eating disorders are often much more complicated than that. Any given person may suffer from more than one at a time, and one list of symptoms doesn’t necessarily equal the same verdict for everyone. It’s important to keep in mind that many of the signals are less obvious than we might think. Not everyone suffering is skin and bones, haggard, and clearly starving. Because there are so many stereotypes around mental illnesses that deal with food, people who wrestle with them will do everything they can to keep it under wraps.

Changes in mood and behaviour, increased isolation and avoidance of social events and gatherings

Changes in mood and behaviour become noticeable quite early on. In an attempt to keep the eating disorder secret, the person may become more isolated and easily irritated; especially when questioned. Anxiety and Depression are very common among those with eating disorders. The person may avoid interaction with friends, especially if gatherings involve food. Hunger can make a person irritable and tired, which drastically impacts the person’s overall mood.

Increase in exercise or exercising excessively

Over-the-top workout habits—sometimes referred to as “exercise anorexia”—can go hand in hand with disordered eating and appear to be on the rise. The person may not participate in social events but will be seen running, walking or exercising. A person with an eating disorder who did not exercise before may now start to increase physical activity. A person who did partake in exercise beforehand may spend hours exercising or talking about it. Does the person panic if they miss a day of exercise? And does he or she work out even when injured or sick? These are indicators that things are going too far.

Obsession with food, diet talk, food or weight documentaries or forums about weight

This sign in adults can be tricky to spot, because internet usage is usually private. However, the person may talk about food and diet, or be the opposite and want to avoid all talk about it. Weight loss documentaries or documentaries about food can become an obsession as the person with an eating disorder becomes fixated.  The person’s internet use will often involve forums or videos related to weight and food, so keep a watchful eye out.

Not consuming food around other people

Many people with eating disorders do not like eating around other people. The anticipation of eating with a bunch of friends can be extremely anxiety-provoking for someone dealing with anorexia, BED, or any other related illness. They may not want others to watch what they’re eating or think that they are being judged on what they are eating. Does the person go out for food with you and consume very little, or order food and take it back home with them?

Always cold

People with eating disorders, especially those who restrict intake, will often experience a lowered body temperature. Frequently complaining about being cold or wearing sweaters and other heavy clothing even in mild weather are common tip-offs in people with eating disorders. This is usually a result of malnutrition and the breakdown of fat in the body. Is the person cold whilst everyone is warm? Common signs in those with eating disorders are cold hands and blue nails, a blue discoloration to the nose (cyanosis) and pale skin.

Strange eating rituals

Compulsive behaviours similar to those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can also appear with eating disorders. These so-called rituals can take the form of cutting food into tiny morsels, or arranging food in certain patterns. They are mainly associated with anorexia (which often occurs alongside OCD), but they are sometimes an early sign of binge eating disorder as well. The person may revert back to ‘child like’ cutlery and plates to organise food, and food may be sectioned off so that it is not touching. When eating disorders are starting, people will try to make it look like they are eating by cutting things up and shifting food around on the plate so as not to draw attention to how little they are eating.

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

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017

Today marks the first day of eating disorder awareness week 2017. This is such an important week for me as most people know and I will be sharing lots of information about eating disorders to try and raise as much awareness as possible.

Awareness is key to diagnosis and recovery. Because of a lack of awareness, my eating disorder went undetected for 14+ months until my life was at risk. People deserve to get the care and treatment they need in terms of their eating disorders from the moment they develop one.

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.

Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:

  • 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.

I was diagnosed with Anorexia in 2014. 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.

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]

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

I was REALLY sick…

I was on instagram last night when I went onto my instagram profile. I decided to just stroll through my pictures and found some from 2014/2015. For those who know me, you’ll understand that during this time I was in the depths of my eating disorder. At the time, I didn’t really know this. I thought I was okay. I thought I was better than I’d ever been. How wrong I was though. June 2014 consisted of doctors appointments, hospital appointments, blood tests, scans, meetings with college, intervention from community mental health teams and social services. My weight was drastically dropping by each day. The calories kept getting lower and lower.

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Whilst going through those pictures last night; I had the realisation that I was actually really sick back then. How I had managed to feel so healthy I have no idea. How did I survive on no calories for a week? How did I manage to exercise every waking hour of the day?

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I knew that I was sick, I just don’t think I realised how sick I was. I thought I was getting healthy and stronger, not unhealthy and weaker. I remember getting every single illness going; my immune system was very weak. I was always cold yet I still took freezing showers. My muscles always ached and bruised but I would walk for hours on end.

All I wanted to do was sleep and food plagued every single thought.

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Anorexia is such a wretched disease.

It stops its victims even noticing theres something wrong. It refuses to let them see their true self or feel any sort of happiness.

Anorexia is strong, but Savannah is stronger.

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

What Anorexia Taught Me

When I was 12 years old, I remember thinking to myself, “you’ll never get an eating disorder; you’re too overweight”, after hearing about eating disorders on the news. I remember telling myself that was one less mental illness to worry about because I certainly wouldn’t get that. I already had Anxiety and Depression; I’d never get an eating disorder too.

Funny enough, 3 years later…you can kind of guess what happened. I – the person who told myself I’d never get one – developed Anorexia Nervosa. I didn’t actually realise I had an eating disorder until a long while in. I thought I was on a diet – simply cutting out ‘bad’ foods in order to lose weight. I thought exercising was making me stronger, fitter, thinner. The exercise boosted my self-esteem. Saying ‘no’ to a piece of food made me proud. A few months in, I finally realised I may have had a problem. I’d cut out all types of food. Any food that led to possible weight gain. Pizza, chips, ice cream, bread, carbohydrates, takeaway, crisps, pasta, rice. The list mounted and soon the only food I felt truly comfortable eating was fruit, vegetables and water. I realised I was developing something abnormal, but I refused to admit it or tell anybody. I began purging. Throwing up the small amounts of food I’d consumed because those calories just weren’t worth it. Using pills to lose weight.

Oh I knew by now that this was Anorexia Nervosa. I knew what she was doing to my body; abnormal blood counts, fatigue, lack of oxygen in the skin, intolerance to cold, abnormal heart rhythms, dizziness and fainting, low blood pressure, dehydration, osteoporosis, irritability, depression and increased anxiety, hatred and fear of food, thoughts and attempts of suicide, social withdrawal, self harm, constipation, constant hunger, brittle nails and thin hair, low potassium and chloride… the list is endless, but I was lacking one important symptom; an extremely low body weight (which I eventually gained after a doctor told me I was ‘too fat’ after losing 31% of my body weight).

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You see, I never thought I would get a disease known as Anorexia Nervosa. I never expected to have a life-long condition that can be managed but won’t truly go away. But the thing is, as an 8 year old I wrote a poem about a girl named ‘Ana’ who told me I was fat and not to eat. It happens that 7 years after that poem, it came true. Maybe I was predisposed to Anorexia  from a early age and there was nothing anybody could do to stop it.

Anorexia Nervosa is completely destructive and the most lethal psychiatric disorder to date, but its taught me things I never thought it would.

Because of Anorexia; I learned to look deeper into the way people act, behave and think. I have learned to be compassionate, to not judge but to be accepting. I have learned who my real friends are (to those of you who stuck around; I love ya) and who is there for me in the darkest of times. I have learned about a range of illnesses I knew nothing about before. I have learned to advocate for change and grow a passion for changing the world and the people in it. I have learned to stand up for those who have mental illness and befriend those who struggle. I have learned so, so much…

but most of all,  I have learned about me.

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

A New Diagnosis

So today we may have reached a good point in terms of ‘recovery’. I had a meeting with my DA to discuss referral processes for a new diagnosis. I did a referral test which gave a result of 10 out of 10 and have now been processed onto a referral to wait for assessment.

I’m not going into this ‘diagnosis’ until I have 100% confirmation that it is the diagnosis we have been searching for.

Either way, new and positive things may be coming up in the future that will help explain my entire life, my behaviours, my problems, my anxiety, and so forth.

It’s been a rough 24 hours and I have took about 10 steps back in terms of being ‘stable’. My depression has thrived in my defeated mind this last week and my anxiety has not been in my control. Either way, 12 hours later after 10 panic attacks, I’m feeling ready to fight again.

I think people underestimate the struggle of trying to remain ‘okay’ when you battle with so many internal illnesses.

Every single hour of every single day is a big deal for somebody struggling.

This morning was a success – leaving the house, getting a bus and attending two appointments before getting the hour journey bus back.

Little steps are everything.

Please keep trying to make those little steps and push and push and push until you get the help you feel you need.

Love you all, hope you’re doing well! ❤

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

Recovery Is…

  • Recovery is about enjoying all types of food and not giving them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ labels.
  • Recovery is about not sticking to your meal plan and being able to enjoy extra treats and snacks with friends.
  • Recovery is about not tracking every calorie, every gram of fat, and every step you take each day.
  • Recovery is about not planning meals in advance and being able to eat whatever you want.
  • Recovery is about being able to enjoy a meal out with friends without having a panic attack over the calories or food.
  • Recovery is about being able to enjoy your birthday, Christmas and that late night McDonalds or pizza with friends.
  • Recovery is about drinking alcohol without skipping meals to allow the excess calories.
  • Recovery is finding exercising and walking relaxing and not just a means to count calories and lose weight.
  • Recovery is sleeping in sometimes or not moving from your bed because you don’t have to be on the go all day.
  • Recovery is being able to have more energy to hang out with friends and family because you are not always cold or ill.
  • Recovery is allowing things to be imperfect.
  • Recovery is learning to eat in front of others without feeling that you are being judged.
  • Recovery is feeling comfortable outside of treatment so that you can lead a fulfilling life.
  • Recovery is accepting a relapse as a challenge to recover stronger.
  • Recovery is understanding that an eating disorder does not make you feel safe, nor does the dependency on others.
  • Recovery is feeling all sorts of emotions but learning to cope with them.

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Recovery in an eating disorder is many things…but overall it is the journey to finding yourself. Recovery is a long process – sometimes there are 2 steps forward and 10 steps back (okay, most of the time), but even through the downpour and the days where you simply can’t get out of bed, you’re one step closer than you were when you were submerged to your illness. Recovery teaches you that nothing is perfect. Emotions are not straight-forward. People are confusing. Plans change. Relapses happen.

Recovery is painful, tiring and emotional. Refeeding causes horrible side effects that leave you ready to give up. Getting every illness under the sun is normal…BUT

Recovery is a process and takes heaps of time. Just because its dark today, doesn’t mean the light won’t rise tomorrow.

You’re beautiful. You’re strong. You’ve survived every bad day to date and that is rather extraordinary!

[inspired by Alice]

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

THIN is not the definition of Anorexia

A lot of people always message me saying that they feel they don’t have an eating disorder because of their weight.

I want to clarify this as it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

You do not need to be severely underweight in order to suffer from a life-threatening eating disorder.

An eating disorder is often described as a PSYCHOLOGICAL disorder that presents abnormal eating habits that affects a person’s physical and mental well-being. Such disorders include binge eating disorder which involves eating large amounts in short periods of time, anorexia nervosa which involves eating very little and results in weight loss, bulimia which people eat and lot and then try to get rid of the food, and many other, less common disorders.

When a person develops Anorexia, they are usually of a normal weight. Sometimes, the person is slightly overweight. It is a cause for concern when a person dramatically loses weight in a short amount of time and this alone can be a sign of an eating disorder. Though many people with Anorexia Nervosa are seen as severely underweight, there are many people with the condition of normal weight and who fail to receive treatment. These people do not fit the definition of anorexia because they are not underweight. This is known as eating disorder not otherwise specified, or EDNOS. It wasn’t until 10 months after my weight loss started that I finally qualified for a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa, but even then I was told by doctors that I could ‘lose a few more lbs’. I was not offered any inpatient treatment at that initial diagnosis which in thus leaded to a more serious decline in my health and has recently caused 3 relapses, in which one of these was severe.

When you have an eating disorder but still have a normal body weight, help is not offered. Although you are barely surviving on a glass of water a day and exercise excessively until you pass out, no one believes you are at risk. Therefore, you do not receive the help you need which pushes you into a distressed and unstable mental state, worsening both your physical and mental health and your eating disorder continues to progress.

I want to spread the message – You do not need to be thin to be anorexic! – so that all those suffering with early stages of eating disorders can receive the help they need before they get critical. For 3 years, I have suffered severely with thoughts of food, weight and appearance. I have suffered with putting even 10 calories into my mouth and spent endless amounts of time in the gym without anything inside my stomach. I do not want people suffering this way all because of a horrendous BMI guideline that determines whether you get help or not.

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Summer 2014