chapter  1
16 Pages

Eating disorders and their management

Eating disorders are fascinating mental health problems in a number of respects. In the current climate of increasing concern about the growth in rates of obesity, they highlight the ambivalent attitudes to eating and weight which are shared by many people and the problems which can arise from them. However, although weight and shape concerns are extremely common, particularly in young females, full-syndrome eating disorders are quite unusual in children and adolescents, and rates of referral to secondary care services are rarer still. Despite this, anorexia nervosa (AN) has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, and in the UK, it is currently the most prevalent disorder within inpatient child and adolescent mental health services (O’Herlihy et al., 2003). In many respects, it is the paradoxical nature of eating disorders which makes them so interesting; this includes the typical love-hate relationship with food, young persons’ investment in their disorder in the face of the physical and social disability it brings, and, consequently and crucially with respect to this book, young peoples’ characteristically ambivalent attitudes to treatment.