Cases of life-threatening illnesses are on the rise in men and boys across England, data has revealed.
Over the past five years, hospital admissions for people with eating disorders have increased by 84%.
Doctors from the Royal College of Psychiatrists found there were 11,049 more admissions for conditions such as bulimia and anorexia in 2020-21 than in 2015-2016, bringing the total to 24,268 admissions across England.
Among these, a large increase was observed among boys and young men, from 280 hospitalizations in 2015-2016 to 637 in 2020-2021.
Eating disorders take a heavy toll on those who suffer from them and are often referred to as “the deadliest mental health problems”.
One in five deaths of people with anorexia is due to suicide, while all eating disorders have high rates of self-harm and depression.
Child admissions have also increased in recent years, from 3,541 to 6,713, with a 35% increase in the last year alone as the COVID pandemic hit.
Doctors have now launched new guidelines to help doctors identify those who may be at risk.
They said the signs that a person is dangerously ill can be missed by GPs.
The report found that many patients with an eating disorder will often have normal blood tests, which means no alarm bells for doctors.
People with anorexia may also have dangerously low levels of electrolytes like potassium – which are not reflected in these tests.
Those who suffer from bulimia may also struggle with stomach issues.
They may also be of normal weight and it has already been found that people are denied help if their body mass index (BMI) is too high.
Dr Dasha Nicholls, who chaired the development of the new guidelines on medical emergencies in eating disorders, said awareness of common symptoms needed to be raised.
The 13 signs to look out for include:
- Have become withdrawn
- Spend a lot of time worrying about body weight and shape
- Avoid socializing
- Eat very little food
- Someone who has bad breath or smells bad
- Anxious and depressed
- Habits and strict rules around food
- Exercise more
- Dramatic weight loss
- Cut food into small pieces
- Lying about food and weight
- Wear loose or baggy clothing
- Go to the toilet after eating
Dr Nicholls added: “Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are non-discriminatory and can affect people of all ages and genders.
“These are mental health conditions, not a ‘lifestyle choice’, and we should not underestimate their seriousness.
“Even though anorexia nervosa is often considered the deadliest mental illness, most deaths can be prevented with early treatment and support.
“A full recovery is possible if spotted and treated early.”
Current guidelines, Dr. Nicholls said, are misunderstood, leading to devastating consequences for thousands of parents and their families.
She added that to stop the “eating disorder epidemic” in its tracks, new guidelines need to be implemented.
An NHS spokesperson said demand for services had increased dramatically during the pandemic.
“With the NHS treating a third more children and young people than two years ago, it is important that all healthcare professionals are supported to better understand and respond to the signs that someone is seriously ill with an eating disorder.
“Parents can also find information about potential symptoms, such as binge eating, feeling guilty after eating, negative self-image and other signs of a potential eating disorder on the site. NHS website, and they should not hesitate to contact the NHS if they or their child needs support.
This story originally appeared on The sun and has been reproduced here with permission.