Record number of young people receiving eating disorder treatment

The NHS reports a record number of young people receiving eating disorder treatment
© iStock-Daisy-Daisy

The latest figures from the NHS have uncovered that more young people than ever before are receiving a form of eating disorder treatment.

Eating disorders are mental health conditions where controlling food helps individuals cope with feelings and other situations. Eating disorder treatment is available on the NHS and can differ subject to the type of eating disorder.

New data from the NHS identified that almost 10,000 children and young people started treatment between April and December with record demand services – an increase of just under two thirds since before the pandemic.

Eating disorder treatment at an all-time high

The NHS is investing an additional £79 million into children’s mental health services due to the increased demand during the pandemic, with allocated funding for around 2,000 more children and young people to start eating disorder treatment.

Furthermore, extra investment into mental health services, including eating disorder services, are planned with £2.3 billion allocated every year in additional funding until 2023/24 as part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s commitment to improving mental health services.

Claire Murdoch, NHS Mental Health Director, said: “NHS services remained open throughout the pandemic as hard-working mental health staff worked to deliver care to more people than ever before.

“The NHS continues to see record-high numbers of young people for eating disorders and it is vital anybody who might need care comes forward as quickly as possible so the NHS can get you any care you may need.

“Parents can find information on potential symptoms, such as binge eating, feeling guilty after eating, and negative self-image and other signs of a potential eating disorder are available on the NHS website and they should not hesitate to contact the NHS if they think their child might need some support”.

Recognising and treating eating disorders in children

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS Associate Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and psychiatrist, advised young people and their loved ones to use trusted online resources if they had concerns and wanted to seek help.

Recognising the signs of an eating disorder is essential for parents and caregivers. Symptoms that could be an indication a child may need eating disorder treatment may include:

  • Eating a restricted amount or a range of foods,
  • Binge eating,
  • Feeling guilty after eating,
  • Repeatedly weighing themselves.

Eating disorder treatment and support can encourage healthy, balanced eating habits and mindset. The first stage to get support for a child with a suspected eating disorder is talking to a doctor, who can then refer you to specialist services.

Online self-help eating disorder treatment programmes may be suggested for bulimia or binge eating disorder, or symptoms similar to either of these conditions. Short support sessions over the phone or in-person are available within this programme.

Talking therapy is another option to treat eating disorders. There are two varieties available, cognitive behavioural therapy for eating disorders (CBT-ED) and family therapy. CBT-ED is a form of CBT specifically adapted for eating disorder treatment. It potentially is offered for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders with up to 40 talking therapy sessions available. Additionally, family therapy may be provided as an eating disorder treatment option; it comprises of working through issues with the patients’ family with the support of a therapist.


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