Raising Awareness of Eating Disorders and How To Make It Through

Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) serves as a reminder of the complexity of eating disorders and the need for collective efforts to address them. Created by the National Eating Disorders Association, EDAW  aims to raise awareness, provide support, and foster understanding for those affected by these challenging conditions.


The Global Impact of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect millions worldwide, with an estimated 70 million individuals grappling with these conditions. Alarmingly, mental health providers have observed a surge in body and eating concerns among individuals as young as 9-10 years old, indicating the urgent need for intervention and support. Estimates suggest that over 700,000 people in the UK have an eating disorder, 90% of whom are female. While this statistic sounds grim, it’s likely an underestimate as many cases do not present to health services. Eating disorders can develop at any age but risk of onset is highest for adolescents and young adults. Atypical eating disorders are the most common, followed by binge eating disorders, and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is the least common.

It’s crucial to recognise that eating disorders transcend demographic boundaries. They affect people of every size, race, gender, age, ability, and income level. Each individual’s experience is valid and deserving of care and recovery.

Some interesting statistics for eating disorders:

These statistics underscore the multifaceted nature of eating disorders and the imperative to address them comprehensively.

Promoting weight loss as a goal that everyone should aspire to can inadvertently contribute to the creation of and perpetuation of disordered eating patterns and negative body image. In both the UK and globally, societal emphasis on achieving a certain body size or weight often overlooks the myriad of factors influencing individual health and well-being. This promotion of being thin at all costs can fuel unhealthy dieting behaviours, excessive exercise regimens, and obsessive calorie counting, which may escalate into full-blown eating disorders. Additionally, the focus on weight loss tends to reinforce harmful stereotypes and discrimination against individuals based on their body size or shape, exacerbating feelings of shame and inadequacy. It is vital to shift the narrative towards holistic health and body acceptance, acknowledging that well-being encompasses physical, mental, and emotional aspects beyond mere weight metrics.

The Role of Hypnotherapy in Eating Disorder Management

When reviewing different strategies for managing disordered eating behaviours, hypnotherapy emerges as a promising avenue for supporting individuals.. Hypnotherapy offers a holistic approach that addresses both the emotional and behavioural aspects of the disorder, helping individuals confront negative thought patterns and cultivate positive self-images.

Research suggests that hypnotherapy can be a valuable adjunct to both traditional weight loss approaches, offering individuals a tool to address underlying psychological factors that contribute to overeating and it can also serve to support people recovering from a range of unhealthy eating behaviours. By targeting subconscious beliefs and attitudes towards food, body image, and self-worth, hypnotherapy aims to promote positive behavioural changes and foster a healthier relationship with both the body and food. While individual results may vary, many individuals report experiencing reduced cravings, increased motivation for healthy habits, and improved self-control through hypnosis sessions tailored to wards fostering a healthy relationship between body and food.

Supporting people with eating disorders required specialised knowledge and training. A hypnotherapist who specialises in this area will work with individuals to challenge negative thought patterns, enabling them to challenge and reframe negative beliefs surrounding body image, self-worth, and food, promoting a healthier mindset and self-perception. Additionally, hypnotherapy helps individuals address emotional triggers contributing to disordered eating behaviours, facilitating the development of healthier coping mechanisms and emotional regulation strategies. Cultivating self-compassion, hypnotherapy fosters a sense of acceptance, empowering individuals to embrace their journey toward recovery with kindness and understanding.

Collaboration with healthcare providers, including general practitioners, ensures coordinated care and maximises the effectiveness of hypnotherapy interventions. The charity Beat which campaigns for eating disorders said early intervention was critical for the treatment of eating disorders. Alarming figures released in 2016 showed that average waiting times for mental health treatment for eating disorders in England varied from 20 days to 180 depending on the NHS trust involved. According to the data, waiting times for outpatient treatment rose by 120% in some areas between 2012 and 2016, with patients routinely waiting more than 100 days for a specialist. Data from 41 of the 55 mental health trusts also showed that 1,576 people waited 18 weeks to see a specialist, 742 waited 26 weeks and 99 a year. Five mental health trusts responded by saying they did not provide an eating disorder service at all. This has spun even further out of control post pandemic, most mental health trusts are in crisis and only the worst of the worst cases are being seen.

Between 2016 and 2021, the number of patients treated in English hospitals for an eating disorder went up by 84%, from about 13,000 to 24,000. Now, 1.25 million people in the UK are reckoned to have one of the relevant conditions. And the rate of increase among young people seems flatly terrifying: in 2023, NHS figures suggested that the proportion of people aged 17-19 with an eating disorder stood at 12%, up from 0.8% only six years before.

Thankfully, hypnotherapy has a proven track record in this field.. And there is no waiting list! The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) has a directory of more than 2,000 highly-trained therapists across the UK, many of whom have had specialist training in body, weight and eating issues. During an initial interview with a client, the therapist will discuss the disorder. Often there can be an underlying problem, like neurodiversity, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem which might need to be addressed.

Trained hypnotherapists work with individuals to:

While timelines vary between individuals, hypnotherapy offers a tailored approach that acknowledges the complexities of each individual’s journey toward recovery. Collaboration with other healthcare providers, including general practitioners, ensures coordinated care and maximises the effectiveness of hypnotherapy interventions.

Hypnotherapy adopts a holistic approach, addressing both the emotional and behavioural dimensions of the disorder by assisting individuals in confronting negative thought patterns and fostering positive self-perceptions.

Consider a hypothetical scenario where a young woman named Sarah has been struggling with bulimia nervosa for several years. Despite attempts at traditional therapies and medical interventions, Sarah finds herself trapped in a cycle of bingeing and purging, compounded by negative self-image and low self-esteem. Feeling helpless and exhausted, unable to access support via the NHS, Sarah turns to hypnotherapy as a last resort.

Sarah’s hypnotherapist, who has done extra specialist training in this area, works closely with her to explore the underlying emotional triggers contributing to her disordered eating behaviours. Through a series of hypnotherapy sessions, Sarah learns to challenge and reframe negative beliefs surrounding her body image, self-worth, and relationship with food. Over time, Sarah begins to cultivate a healthier mindset and self-perception, embracing her recovery journey with newfound kindness and understanding.

Furthermore, hypnotherapy aids Sarah in addressing the emotional wounds and traumas that have fuelled her eating disorder. By delving into her subconscious mind, Sarah gains insights into the root causes of her struggles and develops healthier coping mechanisms and emotional regulation strategies. Cultivating self-compassion, Sarah learns to accept herself unconditionally, empowering her to break free from the grips of her eating disorder and embark on a path towards a comfortable relationship with her body and food.

While Sarah’s journey towards recovery is unique and multifaceted, hypnotherapy serves as a pivotal tool in her treatment arsenal. By collaborating with her healthcare providers, including her general practitioner and hypnotherapist, Sarah receives coordinated care that maximises the effectiveness of her hypnotherapy interventions. In the face of daunting statistics revealing the challenges of accessing mental health treatment for eating disorders, Sarah’s proactive approach to seeking prompt and efficient solutions underscores the importance of holistic approaches like hypnotherapy in addressing the complexities of eating disorders.

If you recognise yourself in the above example, give one of the National Council for Hypnotherapy’s many trained, accredited and compassionate hypnotherapists a call.  It might just change your life.


Photo by J E S U S R O C H A on Unsplash

Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

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