Record number of children are being treated by the NHS for eating disorders following pandemic
- 10,000 children started treatment for eating disorders April-December last year
- Figures have increased by nearly two-thirds on the number before the pandemic
- NHS officials suggested rise could be from unpredictability of the pandemic and disruption to routines
Record numbers of children and young people are being treated by the NHS for eating disorders – a rise blamed on the mental strain of the pandemic.
Between April and December last year, almost 10,000 started treatment for disorders such as anorexia and bulimia – up by nearly two-thirds on the number before the pandemic.
Psychiatrist Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS associate clinical director for children and young people’s mental health services, said: ‘The rise could be attributed to the unpredictability of the pandemic, feeling isolated, disruption to routines and experiences of loss and uncertainty.’
Between April and December last year, almost 10,000 started treatment for disorders such as anorexia and bulimia – up by nearly two-thirds on the number before the pandemic
She added: ‘Young people’s problems with food can begin as a coping strategy or a way of feeling in control but may lead to more restrictive patterns of eating and behaviours.’
Warning signs include children keeping to a narrow range of foods, obsessively checking calories, being excessively worried about their shape and failing to grow normally.
NHS bosses also stress the importance of seeking early help. One sufferer who did and is now on the road to recovery is Alice, who developed a serious eating disorder at 17.
She said: ‘I felt anxious when my Mum made the referral as I didn’t know if I could be helped. Those fears soon disappeared after speaking to my clinician only a day after the referral was made.’ Treatment started six days later and she says she is now much better.
NHS England is investing an extra £79 million into children’s mental health services.
Tom Quinn, of eating disorder charity BEAT, said yesterday: ‘Accessing specialist support at the earliest opportunity leads to the best chance of making a full recovery.’