Derry’s newly appointed eating disorder therapist has revealed how so many people dealing with the condition are often too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about what they are going through.
Tracy McCauley has recently been appointed as an Eating Disorder Therapist in the Western Trust, covering the Derry, Limavady and Strabane areas,
She says that finding the courage to speak to your GP can be the first big step towards finding the help and support you need.
“Many people with eating disorders are too embarrassed, ashamed or consumed by the condition to voice what they are going through,” she said.
“As a consequence it is difficult to say with accuracy just how many people are affected by the various forms of eating disorders.”
Tracy is one of 12 specialist eating disorder therapists (three of whom are employed in the Western Trust area) who are based in various locations across the entire border region, to provide specialist eating disorder therapy to clients in primary care and community settings.
The aim is to help prevent patients becoming severely ill and in turn requiring specialist inpatient care, often abroad.
As well as helping people with an eating disorder, in the longer term this should also result in savings for the health services.
“It can be a difficult condition to treat,” says Tracy, who has, in a short timeframe, built up a significant client caseload.
However, she stresses “people can and do recover from eating disorders.
“Recovery is a gradual process which can be achieved through professional help and support from family and friends,” she said.
“Those concerned should approach their GP in the first instance. GPs are the first point of contact for someone with an eating disorder.
“Once the GP has made their assessment, the individual can be referred to the Western Trust’s Eating Disorder Service via the Mental Health Primary Care Liaison Service, where a tailor-made treatment will be developed.”
According to Tracy, “the most important thing is early detection. Like many conditions, early diagnosis will result in a better outcome and a much more timely intervention.”
She added: “To anyone reading this who is concerned for themselves or a loved one I would say, find the courage to go to your GP - they are very understanding and sympathetic and will sign post you to where you need to go to get help and support.”
Tracey’s appointment came about as a result of a cross border eating disorders project which received European Union INTERREG IVA funding secured by Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) the cross border health partnership.
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) indicate that 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder.
It is estimated that between 1 and 2% of the population suffers from either anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and that figures for binge eating are much higher.
The figures however are likely to be under-reported due to the secretive nature of the illness and the shame and guilt often associated with having an eating disorder.