Like adults, many youngsters struggle with body dissatisfaction or have negative thoughts and perceptions about their body. Children as young as 9 years of age are presenting with an eating disorder, depression and low self-esteem, according to a Cork based group.
Grainne Murray, Chairwoman of the Eating Disorder Centre in Cork, says it is important that eating disorders are addressed at an early stage, by creating awareness through education and talking about the signs and symptoms. The Chairwoman of the Eating Disorder Centre Cork was in St Colman’s Community College to mark Eating Disorder Awareness Week which runs from 25 February until 3 March. The Cork group provides a specialist eating disorder service for almost 70 people across the County, with many young people attending. Mrs Murray, who had an eating disorder for a number of years before transitioning to a healthy lifestyle, told St Colman’s Community College Midleton on Tuesday how support from family and community, her love of writing, and an openness about her illness was her salvation. Surrounded by pressure, finding people to talk to about her eating disorder and the realisation that she had a problem was key to aid her recovery, she said.
“It’s important to talk. Eating disorders are not about eating, it’s about what’s eating you.”
An eating disorder “doesn’t discriminate. It can come at any age young and old, male and female, it doesn’t matter, but when it comes it hits hard and it’s a long battle” said Mrs Murray, who was diagnosed with her eating disorder at 37.
According to the experts, eating disorders in our youth can stem from a number of different factors. Comments made to or about children at a young age, for example, can shape their self-perception. Social interaction with peers or family members and other adult influencers such as coaches and teachers, may also plant the seeds of dissatisfaction.
Teacher at St Colman’s Community College, Trish Carlos, proudly told the large crowd of invited dignitaries that gathered in the Primary School on Tuesday “there are no limits as to who is affected by an eating disorder. Our school is very aware of the fact that it could be a staff member, it could be male or female, and that awareness is partly due to our link with the Eating Disorders Centre Cork and also the real care and support which we give our students.”
There are over 200,000 people living with an eating disorder in Ireland, according to Bodywhys, the eating disorder association.
Almost 2,000 new eating disorder cases develop each year in Ireland in the 10-49 year age group, with females 3 times more likely than males to develop an eating disorder.
According to the Health Research Board (HRB) Admissions to Psychiatric Units and Hospitals in 2017 accounted for 14% of children and adolescents with an eating disorder.
In the latest data released by the Board, females accounted for 89% of total eating disorders admissions, with the remaining 11% affecting males.
Experts say increased stress at school and image obsessed social media platforms are partly to blame.
Cllr Danielle Twomey, who deputised for the Mayor of Cork County, praised the HSE supported Eating Disorder Centre Cork for their work.
“To recover from an eating disorder is a long process that requires not only the love of family and friends, but also a team of qualified professionals. This is what makes the Eating Disorder Centre Cork so amazing. You give people light in a dark room. You give them release and you provide them with hope. You give them the strength they need to fight” she said.
If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, may have an eating disorder the Eating Disorder Centre Cork can be contacted on 02145399000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, you should consult your local GP.