(Online) – “I must have been in denial – I was in denial,” says Lynda Kent, whose daughter developed an eating disorder 15 years ago at the age of 19.
“I didn’t want to see there was a problem, until her sister made it very clear that we had a problem.” Lynda says she knew nothing about eating disorders back then and was slow to pick up on the telltale signs.
Her story is not untypical, as a survey finds one in three adults could not name any signs of an eating disorder.
The YouGov survey of 2,108 adults in the UK – to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week – also found 79% were unable to name psychological symptoms, such as low self-esteem or having a distorted perception of weight.
The eating disorder charity Beat says low awareness of the early signs of illnesses like anorexia and bulimia is linked to delayed treatment and increased risk of the illness becoming life-threatening.
Lynda says the early warning signs are often subtle. “In the early days, you don’t see all the signs. Some of them can be mood swings – my daughter became very withdrawn and very quiet.
“She started to display signs of avoiding food, avoiding the truth of where she was eating that food, and lying – so she’d say ‘I ate earlier’ or ‘I’m eating at a friend’s’.
“But it was a very long time before dramatic signs were being shown. It was her sister who noticed it and spoke up and said: ‘Can’t you see what’s happening, Mum?’.”