An interesting article appeared in the Daily Express a few days ago. In an interview with the actress Hetty Baynes. During which, she talked about her struggle with bulimia. Miss Baynes, described how she experienced a dysfunctional childhood. Which was exasperated by her early career as a dancer and that profession’s obsession, at the time emphasis with weight and body image. From an early age Ms Baynes described how she would diet and starve herself, as a mode of controlling her weight. This was subsequently performed by the use of laxatives, as she would consume up to 12 tablets a day. Miss Baynes is in good company, many celebrities such as Elton John, Joan Rivers and Jane Fonda and most famously of all Diana, Princess of Wales, are known to of battled illnesses like bulimia. What is most interesting about Miss Baynes story is that she still battles with bulimia now at the age of 58.
The public’s perception is that eating disorders are generally something that happens to young girls, and hardly ever talked about as an illness, if not treated properly, can follow a person through to adulthood. The fact that body image and the way we look is often used as a mark of success, often it is driven by the celebrity culture, which is recently grown-up, in today’s society.
The physical consequences of any eating disorder can have a lasting effect on the body. Not having the right nutrients in the body can cause muscle wastage and damage to the heart. Miss Baynes is stated as saying, “is all about self-punishment and it’s a horrible place to live in. You feel like you’re a prisoner in your own body.”
There’s no real explanation as to why a person is prone to this obsession with body image, but is likely to be a combination of factors. As mentioned above the drive for perfection and today’s society’s preoccupation with the way our appearance plays a major part in who we are, often gives people the wrong message, particularly young girls; there is a growing increasing the amount of young boys with eating disorders; according to a BBC poll taken in 2014, a quarter of all people suffering with an eating disorder in the UK are male.
What actually defines beauty has changed historically from period to period, one only has to think of the ancient Greeks, recent research suggests that an eating disorder can be an emotional coping strategy. With the thought that, a person in the early years may feel uncomfortable with the feelings they have, particularly around the time of puberty. Of course, once a coping strategy is learnt a person may return to it, when they are overwhelmed with emotions, until they are given another coping strategy or a way of coping with their unhelpful emotions. Like so many people with an eating disorder Miss Baynes speaks about how she returned to bulimia,at times of stress, particularly when she was going through the divorce process with her ex-husband, film director Ken Russell.
One estimate puts the cost to the NHS of treating eating disorders at £70m.
One worrying trend is the rise of pro eating disorder websites, with Google recently taking down a website that was promoting anorexia. Unfortunately, through social media promotion of such sites can be commonplace.
Psychotherapy and counselling can help someone with an eating disorder, with not only CBT but also interpersonal therapy, such as person centered humanistic therapy, finding good results. Although CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is NICE (the National Institute of clinical excellence) preferred method of psychotherapy and counselling. There is a groundswell in the treatment of eating disorders and NICE now recommend interpersonal therapy as one of the treatment protocols.