Number of teens hospitalized with eating disorders doubles – NHS

Reuters / Joshua Lott
Hospital admissions of teenagers with eating disorders have nearly doubled in the past three years, new NHS figures reveal.

The number of hospitalized 13 to 19 year olds rocketed to 1,800 in 2013/14, up from just under 1,000 in 2010/11, with psychiatrists blaming social media for the rise.

The majority of those admitted to hospital are female, while the majority age group is 15.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) said it had seen an “unprecedented” rise in the numbers of teenagers suffering from eating disorders, adding that while the official figures remained relatively low, the rise was matched by a similar number who were not hospitalized.

The RCP blamed the increase on portrayals of “perfect bodies” which dominate social media feeds.

The college’s spokesperson, Dr Carolyn Nahman, told the BBC: “We’re getting increasingly concerned about the pressure of social media.

“Literally with one click of a button very vulnerable young people are able to access 10,000 images of ‘perfect looking’ people which places them under a lot of pressure.

“Young people who look at these images often develop body image dissatisfaction, quite low self-esteem, because they're constantly comparing themselves to these perfect images.

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“This is a risk factor for disordered eating and more serious eating disorders which can prove fatal.”

One teenage sufferer, Freya Chandler, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program that she used images of desirable bodies on her social media feeds to motivate her fitness goals.

From following all different ... apps I used [them as] motivation to get fit ... I just wanted a toned body. I was 13, I was really, really into fitness and getting fit and wanted to have a really toned body,” she said.

“It was not really about being skinny but by following these apps ... I just got terrified about touching certain foods. I started losing weight and the weight just kept going down.”

Freya lost so much weight she was told she was hospitalized, and was at one stage she was told she was minutes away from death.

“I lost so much weight in a short amount of time and my body was shutting down. I was on a 24-hour heart monitor, having ECGs all the time and blood tests.

“My organs were failing. You really, really are minutes away from dying.

“If you don't have these checks done you really are in danger of dying in your sleep.”

She spent months being treated at the hospital and was discharged in July 2014 having made a full recovery.

It was devastating. We were just bemused, how it happened so quickly and the reasons why,” said Freya’s father, Paul.

We didn't know what to do. Freya became an alien to us, she was not our daughter. Her thinking was completely different. It was like having a stranger in the house.”