Lack of help for eating disorders puts sufferers in a "twilight zone"

Campaigners in the UK say sufferers of eating disorders are relegated to a "twilight zone" when it comes to accessing help for their disorder.

They believe such disorders fail to receive attention because the Government has little idea how many people suffer from them.

The problem they say is being relegated to the "twilight zone" with 9 in 10 sufferers feeling they have no one to turn to for help.

Young people between 14 and 25 years of age are at greatest risk and a fifth of sufferers become seriously ill and risk premature death; eating disorders are a physical sign of emotional distress.

Current estimates of 1.1 million sufferers are based on figures taken 17 years ago and apparently when the charity the Eating Disorders Association approached the Medical Research Council for funding to research how many people suffer from conditions such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia in 2005, the application was rejected.

The Eating Disorders Association is currently relaunching itself under the name of 'Beat' and according to Susan Ringwood, its chief executive the Department of Health can not plan for services when they have no idea how many people have such conditions.

Concern about information and services to deal with eating disorders and mental health problems have been voiced from many quarters and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has for spoken of working with the fashion industry to combat the "tyranny of thinness".

The critics of Government policies say there is a lack of resources and the health service and GPs are often unwilling to devote time to the problem.

"Beat" says the celebrity-driven culture pressurises young people and the media's preoccupation with skinny celebrities only serve to make sufferers feel more isolated with a devastating impact on young people suffering from eating disorders.

New research by "Beat" which involved 600 people aged 14 to 25 who suffer from an eating disorder, indicates that 92 per cent feel they have no one to turn to for help and very few would confide in their parents, while 83% said they would not be able to approach their GP or nurse about their eating disorder.

Miss Ringwood says 'Beat' hopes its new name will inspire more people to seek help.

A spokesman for the Department of Health says it is the range of treatments patients access which makes it difficult to estimate the figures.

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