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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Carlisle medic treats child, eight, for eating disorder

An eating disorder specialist at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary has seen a child of just eight with eating problems.

Lorna Harrison, specialist dietician for eating disorders and mental health, sees patients from across north Cumbria and spoke out to mark Eating Disorders Week which starts today.

She said she sees around 70 new referrals every year – and said those over 50 had “gone up considerably” recently.

“They are often people who have had eating disorders for a number of years, then something has happened in their life that has caused them to go into a rapid decline,” she said.

“The youngest referral I have ever taken was eight years of age. The highest volume is between 12 and 17, and then mid to late-20s.”

People with eating disorders are being urged not to suffer in silence during the week, which aims to raise awareness of the problem.

“I see a spectrum of eating disorders with anorexia nervosa – severe restriction of food intake – at one end and binge eating disorder – severe overeating – at the other end, and all shades of grey in the middle,” she said. “Across periods of time people may slip from one behaviour to another and back again several times.”

Patients are referred to Lorna from GPs, psychiatrists and psychologists, from dietitians in other areas and from CAMHS (the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service).

She said young men were ‘notoriously bad’ at asking for help.

“The majority of my clients feel very ashamed of their condition,” she added.

“The general public don’t have a clear understanding of eating disorders and a lot of healthcare professionals are the same.”

Lorna said anyone worried about an eating disorder should speak to their GP or a member of the family.

“An eating disorder doesn’t just affect the individual, it affects the whole family. It’s terribly traumatic for the sufferer but also has huge ramifications for the family, putting them under huge pressure. If you suspect a member of your family or a friend is suffering from an eating disorder, try to open up the subject for discussion and encourage them to speak to a health care professional.”

For more information visit www.b-eat.co.uk – the website of the charity Beat – beating eating disorders.

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