A new study's findings reveal the early warning signs of people that may be suffering from an eating disorder. Researchers from Swansea University conducted a large-scale data study to be able to identify individuals with the condition at an early stage.
Millions of people around the world are affected by eating disorders like binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. However, not everyone is likely to seek the help they need to treat the condition. Most patients are often diagnosed during adolescence or early adulthood. Even though this is a large scale issue, there are not many resources available to treat the issue. Early diagnosis can be instrumental in getting patients the right help they need.
The team found that people who were diagnosed with a disorder were likely to suffer from other conditions before they were diagnosed. For the study, the team examined electronic health records from GPs and hospital admissions in Wales. Almost 15,558 people in Wales were diagnosed with an eating disorder between 1990 and 2017.
The team made the following observations in the two years before the 15,558 people in the study were diagnosed:
- Extremely high levels of mental disorders like depression or alcohol disorders.
- Higher levels of injuries and self-harm.
- Prescription for central nervous system drugs like antipsychotics and antidepressants.
- Prescriptions for gastrointestinal drugs for stomach upsets.
One or a combination of these factors can help medical experts spot people with an eating disorder early.
Dr Jacinta Tan, an associate professor of psychiatry at Swansea University and lead author of the study told a news portal: "I cannot emphasise enough the importance of detection and early intervention for eating disorders. Delays in receiving diagnosis and treatment are sadly common and also associated with poorer outcomes and great suffering.
"This research contributes to the evidence about prevalence of eating disorders and begins to quantify the scale of the problem in the entire country of Wales. The majority of these patients we identified are not known to specialist eating disorder services.
"The increased prescriptions by GPs both before and after diagnosis indicates that these patients, even if not known to specialist services, have significantly more difficulties or are struggling. This underlines the clinical need for earlier intervention for these patients and the need to support GPs in their important role in this."
The new research could help reduce the rates of the number of people affected by eating disorders. "Eating disorders can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families so this study is very timely," Professor Keith Lloyd, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Wales, told a news portal.
The findings were originally published in the British Journal of Psychiatry by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.