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Irish eating disorder support services see 55pc spike in people seeking help

There were several reasons why the organisation saw an increase in eating disorders last year, with Covid lockdowns being a major contributing factor.

Underweight teenager looking at herself in the mirror

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

There was a 55pc spike in the number of people attending eating disorder support services last year.

The figures were released to the Sunday Independent by Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, ahead of their annual report, which is due to be published in the coming weeks.

Bodywhys has also seen a surge in people using their email service, increasing by 71pc in 2021 as people sought help for their eating disorders.

Attendance at the Bodywhys support group PiLaR (Peer Led Resilience), which helps people struggling with eating disorders and their families, has grown by 125pc in the same period.

Bodywhys’ Communications Officer, Ellen Jennings, said that there were several reasons why the organisation saw an increase in eating disorders last year, with Covid lockdowns being a major contributing factor.

“During the pandemic there was increased uncertainty and a change of routine for people, so that could have intensified things for people,” she told Newstalk.

"We know that it pushed people towards coping in that way, who may have been vulnerable to coping in that way.

"And also people who were already experiencing an eating disorder, or in recovery from an eating disorder, may have experienced a relapse".

The association also reports a significant increase in the number of adults seeking help for Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

"People affected by binge eating disorder can often engage in behaviours in secret, and there's a lot of shame and embarrassment around those behaviours,” Ms Jennings explained.

"That means that it can go unnoticed for longer, and also it's hard for the person to open up about these types of feelings.

"It's important to remember that an eating disorder is a coping mechanism for dealing with something else in the person's life.

"So really the behaviours are just a symptom of what might really be going on for the person," she added.


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