Eating disorders - Problem has to be tackled

Older people will have gone through primary and secondary school, and some will even have gone through university without so much as a day’s instruction on the importance of diet.

Surely proper eating habits should be a fundamental aspect of an educational system preparing young people for life.

In the circumstances we should not be surprised that many people are developing eating disorders.

Historically it is not that long since hundreds of thousands died in the Great Famine and millions of Irish people fled to seek shelter elsewhere in the world.

A century-and-a-half ago, Irish people were glad to have anything to eat, but now we have developed into a relatively affluent country.

Children frequently seek to emulate the glamorous image presented by celebrities. The image may not always be real, but too many young people are becoming so anxious about their appearance that they are engaging in dangerous forms of dieting, which put them at risk of developing serious problems.

School children as young as 12 are now presenting for treatment with eating disorders. Such disorders are on the rise and may often be undetected for years. The three main classifications of eating disorder are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. These disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses and need to be taken more seriously.

There is a deficit of specialist centres to treat eating disorders in this country and sufferers frequently end up in psychiatric units because proper facilities are not available.

We ignore these 21st-century problems at our own peril, because they can afflict any family.


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