03/06/2015 12:20 BST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 BST

The Number Of Teenagers Being Admitted To Hospitals For Eating Disorders Has Nearly Doubled


The number of hospital admissions across the UK for young people suffering from eating disorders has nearly doubled in the last three years, according to the NHS.

The admissions have increased from 959 13 to 19 year olds being admitted into hospital in 2010/11 to 1,815 cases in 2013/14.

Despite the increase not being drastic, mental health experts have claimed that the rate of increase (89%) is mirrored by a larger number of cases that don't go to hospital.

The increase is said to have worsened due to extreme academic and social pressure along with misleading online images.

Emily Faint, a first year student at the University of Bristol, has experienced struggles with her relationship with food since she was 13.

"Social media can have an absolutely devastating effect on people with eating disorders," she told HuffPost UK.

Faint believes several social media outlets could be a main reason for the increase in patients being admitted into hospital, saying: "Seeing Instagram pictures of girls I know showing off their incredible figures can sometimes send me into a spiral of self-loathing and trigger the impulse to severely restrict my eating."

The university student reacted to the doubling of eating disorder patients with "great sadness", but Faint was "absolutely not surprised".

"Is it any wonder that we are raising generations of people to obsess over their own figures?

"If our society began to focus more on what people have done, rather than what they look like, I think we would live in a much more supportive and healthy world."

She also feels there is a permeating effect of "a body-centric world that is bolstered firmly by the advertising industry that feeds on our insecurities or, in some cases, cultivates them from scratch."

Imogen Smith from the UK-based charity, Anorexia Bulimia Care, spoke to Huffington Post Young Voices about the "academic and social pressure and inescapable media messages" that has led to the increase in patients being admitted to hospital.

"More preventative work is urgently needed to ensure young people in particular are given the support and practical strategies to safeguard their emotional wellbeing," Smith says.

Smith expresses that this increase is an issue of priority from a government perspective. "The recent cuts to the mental health budget, especially in light of these new figures, prove that we are still not prioritizing mental health."

The mental health charity believes that there is still a common misconception when it comes to eating disorders, "They are still regarded by many as a lifestyle choice, rather than life-threatening."

Smith suggests that there needs to be "Improved access to services, a joined-up approach to treatment and health professionals with a consistent level of training and insight."

The charity says these improvements should be on the "immediate agenda".

According to Anorexia Bulimia Care, the reason for the increase is said to be because "Eating disorders are the only illnesses we know where patients are told to go away, without support or advice, because their BMI isn’t critical enough."

Rachel Egan, 23, suffered from anorexia, depression and anxiety between the ages of 14-20. Egan recovered from anorexia at the age of 20, and says that the main reason for her recovery was she was going through a serious health scare and realised "how much damage she was doing to her body".

"I decided that an eating disorder was no way I wanted to go on living my life and made my third and final attempt at recovery."

Egan claims that going into hospital at the age of 14 "saved" her life.

Anorexia and Bulimia Care have said although beneficial, being admitted into hospital is "a traumatic experience for individuals and their families, but often it is the only way where medical, psychological and dietetic support can be combined and the life of the patient, preserved."

Egan considers her four years of counseling and psychotherapy to be highly beneficial throughout her recovery. She found a passion in writing and volunteering that helped her on the path to recovery.

"I started volunteering for mental health charities and I wrote blogs on how to support somebody with an eating disorder and I gained a lot of self confidence from doing this and it has helped me stay well."

"I think finding the right therapist is really important to recovery – somebody you trust and can connect with," says Egan.

She recalls putting "print affirmations and inspirational quotes" around her room to reaffirm positive thoughts throughout her day.

Egan believes that the government has a long way to go in regards to improving mental health services, she thinks that eating disorders should be "held/assessed to the same standard/extent as physical health services. We need to treat people earlier, not six months down the line when they are at a crisis point."

Freya Chandler, 15 , told Huff Post UK that her struggle with Anorexia has made her realize how important life is, "I cherish moments of freedom, and little things that i took so for granted before i was unwell - even like being able to go for a run down the street, or grab a coffee in a shop."

Chandler says , "Most importantly, having anorexia has enabled me to view the media and adolescent pressures in new lights; what may not have any affect on one individual can have a completely different outcome on another."

The teen recalls the first time she realized that social media had a negative effect on her mental health, "There was a need to get the latest pictures from whatever account i was using to motivate my "fitness journey... I felt depressed and uncomfortable in my own skin - wanting to be any of the lovely gorgeous people i would see online."

Chandler describes her experience in hospital as "odd", as life away from home proved to be difficult. "Being young and vulnerable, it is all too easy to almost 'adopt' staff as surrogate parents."

Chandler states that the entire process of recovering after being admitted into hospital, ultimately depends on the individual. "After being discharged, I immediately relapsed. It was months later until I finally decided to take the plunge and recover for myself, by myself. Different things work for different people."

The student from Guildford agrees with many other sufferers, stating that there needs to be major improvements from the NHS service. "More time needs to be invested into individuals that are struggling, and a concerted effort from all professionals needs to be put in to help keep someone in crisis from out of hospital. It often doesn't feel as if the sufferer's views are taken into account, and it is all so wrong."

Chandler says that despite that constant struggle that she has to cope with, she is "determined" to finish her journey to full health. She hails recovery as being vital, "Getting anorexia isn’t a choice; no way. But recovery is."

Speaking to BBC Newsbeat, The Royal College of Psychiatrists said there is an "unprecedented" rise in the number of people suffering with eating disorders.

Dr Carolyn Nahman, spokesperson for The Royal College, says she is concerned about the possible fatal consequences of vulnerable teenagers looking at pictures of "ideal bodies" on social media. Dr Nahman says the extreme pressure that these young people put themselves under is worrying.

The increase is said to have worsened due to extreme social pressure and misleading online images, according to The Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The Royal College have said that these images are putting insecure and vulnerable teenagers under immense pressure about their own body image, and it leads them to have a clouded image of what the 'perfect body' should be.

Nahman explained the consequences of this type of social media: "Young people who look at these images often develop body image dissatisfaction, quite low self esteem, because they're constantly comparing themselves to these perfect images."

"This is a risk factor for disordered eating and more serious eating disorders which can prove fatal".

The Royal College of Psychiatrists believe that education is the key to fighting this problem, for both parents and sufferers.

Useful websites and helplines:

Beat, call 0845 634 7650 or email

Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393

Anorexia Bulimia Care Helpline : 03000 111213