Eating Disorders

Every day millions of people live with eating disorders. Men and women, young and old, eating disorders are indiscriminate when it comes to ethnicity or economic demographic. However adolescent women are make up the largest portion of suffers of eating disorders. Year on year this is one group where the numbers remain proportionally higher.

The equation that thin is beautiful had typically been the domain of emaciated Hollywood starlets but it is the frightening rise in popularity of reality TV modelling shows that must carry their own portion of responsibility today. The ratings for these shows are worryingly high, especially given how barbaric they are in their treatment of vulnerable young girls.

In one show (Americas Next Top Model, Cycle 12) the appalling line “What have you been eating?” was directed at a contestant (London Levi-Nance, 18 yrs. old) a young woman who had previously openly admitted she had suffered an eating disorder in the past. Obviously it is the height of irresponsibility to posit such a pointed question at a young woman in this position but that it is dangerous, pointedly cruel and unnecessary should also be pointed out. There is no way to misinterpret the derogatory tone of the question and the young lady’s guilt laden defensive response and subsequent tears leave no doubt as to the impact this callous and withering sneer had on her.

Given the proliferation of eating disorders;  up to 2000, 00 people are currently engaged in some form of  recorded eating disorder in Ireland (Source;, it is imperative that we all inform ourselves as to the nature and danger of eating disorders. Our daughters, sisters, friends and neighbours are squarely in the cross hairs and it behooves each one of us to ensure we are equipped with the information to help them manoeuvre this passage of life armed with the support and knowledge that will safely guide them through.

To begin here are three main types of eating disorders:

•           Anorexia

•           Bulimia

•           Binge purge Eating cycles

Anorexia or anorexia nervosa is the name given to starving yourself because you believe you are overweight. People who suffer from this disorder are convinced they are overweight and highly restrict their food intake. It does not mean a loss of appetite or interest in food, but it does mean reducing and restricting your food intake to that point of starvation. People who are up to 15% under the medically agreed healthy weight for their height and body type and are dieting by refusing foods may be suffering from this disorder.

Bulimia or bulimia nervosa is characterised by cycles of binging, that is, excessive eating, and then purging yourself of the food by inducing vomiting, taking laxatives or enemas and sometimes by exercising obsessively. The process of ridding your body of the calories eaten is called “purging.”

Those who suffer from Bulimia may repeat the binge purge cycle many times a day. In contradiction to anorexia, sometimes people who have bulimia can go undiagnosed for a much longer period of time. Oftentimes with bulimia, there is no dramatically obvious weight loss and so the condition remains unnoticed by those close to the sufferer. Because the cycle of binge and purge comes with a great deal of shame attached and can take place over such a long period of time, there can often be a compounding of many of the initial psychological issues that contributed to the bulimia in the first place and great deal of work may need to be done to uncover the core issues at heart. Of the two, bulimia is now the most common eating disorder. It is estimated that 2% of Irish adolescent girls may be suffering from bulimia at any given time. (Source,

A point that needs to be made known and that we need to be reminded of is that eating disorders are a potentially life threatening mental illness.  They are not a lifestyle choice, a fad or diet gone wrong.  We can characterise an eating disorder by looking beyond the average diet to the point that unhealthy preoccupation with eating, dieting, exercise and a distorted sense of body image have taken on significant ramification in a person’s life.

Beyond the two outlined here, there are a large variety of eating disorders, with various different characteristics and causes that can affect a person at any given time. A common theme eating disorders however can be low self-esteem and the eating disorder is an attempt by the person to try and deal with deep rooted psychological issues by engaging with an unhealthy relationship with food.

Again it is so very important to debunk the fairly common misconception that eating disorders are a fad, a choice, or an attempt at attention-seeking. These kinds of misconceptions and judgements serve only to detract from their seriousness of the disorder and blame and further criticism on an already suffering individual. Eating disorders are serious, and potentially fatal, mental illnesses which require intensive psychological and physical intervention. It is common for a person to evolve from one eating disorder to another, and somebody with anorexia may progress into bulimia and or a different binge eating disorder, and vice versa.

Without the correct medical diagnosis and care as well the correct counselling and therapeutic support medical complications including life threatening organ failure is possible.

It is important to remember that person with an eating disorder should not be blamed for having it! Eating disorders are usually the result of a long standing series of complex interactions between social, biological and psychological factors which bring about theses harmful behaviours.

In conjunction with medical care, treatment of eating disorders nearly always includes cognitive-behavioural therapy or psychotherapy like what we offer at Midwest Counselling and Psychotherapy. Sometimes medication may also be needed and in severe cases a cross functional team may need to work hand in hand including hospitalisation combined with psychotherapy. There is some comfort to be taken in that knowledge that eating disorders are treatable, so it is important that we continue to watch out for symptoms among our friends and acquaintances and in particular among young women.

For help in tacking an eating disorder or if you are worried someone in your life has an eating disorder, feel free to call me for an appointment on 087 7097477 or (061)639472.

Stress, Depression and Christmas.

Although Christmas is meant to be a time of happiness and joy for many, depression, sleep problems and anxiety and stress are the more common features of the holiday season.

It may be the season to be jolly, but between mounting financial strain and the pressure of spending prolonged hours with our families and in laws, it’s easy to see why many of us would prefer to pull the duvet back over our heads and hope the whole thing will just pass us by.

Although this may seem a bit un-festive, in reality anxiety over strains of Christmas can negatively affect our health in many ways and with the “festive” period upon us there is often more opportunity to avail of unhealthy coping behaviors.
We are often more likely to try and cope by drinking, smoking, overeating or staying up alone late at night.

If you are feeling the strain and would like someone to talk to, feel free to call me on 087 709 7477 or to email me in confidence at and perhaps we can try to put some of the yuletide glow back into the holiday season.

Suicide Warning Signs

Article taken from

Suicide Ireland 13th July 2012

 Warning Signs

Information to help you spot the warning signs of depression and suicidal behaviour. We can all make a difference.

What are the warning signs?

These are some of the classic signs that someone you know may be in need of some help. Please watch for the following symptoms…

Talking About Dying

  • any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self harm.

Recent Loss


  • through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of religious faith, loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed

Change in Personality

  • Sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
  • Change in Behaviour
  • Can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
  • Change in Sleep Patterns
  • Insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares
  • Change in Eating Habits
  • Loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
  • Diminished Sexual Interest
  • Impotence, menstrual abnormalities (often missed periods)
  • Fear of losing control
  • Harming self or others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”

Report from RTE News on Suicide stats in Ireland 2011

Reported on RTE News 11th July 2010

 525 suicides, representing 11.4 per 100,000 of the population, were registered in 2011.

The vast majority of those who took their own lives were men.

The figures are contained in the Central Statistics Office Vital Statistics for 2011, which look at the numbers of births, deaths and marriages registered in that year.

The 2011 figures saw a rise in male suicides, which accounted for 84% of all suicide deaths.

Responding to the figures, the Irish Association of Suicidology said international research shows that for every 1% increase in unemployment there is a 0.78% increase in the rate of suicide.

It said that given the impact the economic downturn had had, especially on young males, it was not surprising that men were so at risk to suicide.

However, the association said that there is always help available to anyone suffering emotional distress or feeling suicidal, including through the samaritans or their family GP.

490 suicides were registered in Ireland in 2010.

Dan Neville TD, President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, said he was “extremely concerned” by the increase in the number of deaths by suicide.

Mr Neville said the figures were not a surprise because there was anecdotal evidence of an increase. He said the true figure was closer to 600 when “undetermined” deaths were taken into account.

He said the figure reflected the neglect of suicide prevention for decades, and the economic recession, which impacts on the levels of depression, anxiety and despair.

Mr Neville said that he has been assured that €35m allocated to the development of mental health services was safe from cutbacks.

He said in the past, the HSE did hive off money allocated to mental health for other services, and there must be vigilance that this doesn’t happen again.

He called for the urgent appointments of a Director of Mental Health Services, and a new director of the National Suicide Prevention Office.

“They are key positions that there should be no delay in the appointment of,” he said.

“Particularly the Director of Mental Health Services. This is a new position, promised by the government, by Dr Reilly. But it’s something we have been looking at for years.”