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FAQ for adults

FAQ for adults

Experiencing problems with eating and reaching out for support can be a daunting experience. SWEDA is here to offer a range of pro-recovery services to enable you to make positive changes in your life. Here we answer commonly asked questions about SWEDA's work with adults. 

An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity, or background. They cause severe disturbances to a person’s relationship with food and eating that can quickly spiral into something that has a profound physical, social and psychological impact. Eating disorders can affect all areas of a person’s life and the lives of those around them and can take over everything so that the person with the eating disorder thinks about almost nothing but their weight, shape and food/ eating.

Eating disorders are also characterised by a person putting overwhelming significance on their weight and shape often to the exclusion of all other things.*

A person does not have to be ‘underweight’ to have an eating disorder and, in fact, the majority of people who have one, are not.

Many other people can struggle with Disordered Eating. This is when a person has thoughts, beliefs and symptoms like those described here but they may not attract a diagnosis of an eating disorder. This should be taken seriously too as the person may be struggling.

*there are some exceptions to this

Eating disorders are sometimes thought to be an illness that affects young women, but this is a myth. Anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, or background, can develop an eating disorder.

It is the case that most diagnosed eating disorders occur in young women, but it is thought that about 25% of cases are in men. Older people can and do develop eating disorders as well. Other people have struggled with an eating disorder for years without receiving help. Non-white people are equally vulnerable to developing eating disorders as white people. Trans people are particularly at risk of developing one. These types of cases are underrepresented in statistics about eating disorders which can mean not enough research is conducted into them.

There are no general agreements on an overall cause for eating disorders although research is going on all the time. Each person’s situation is unique and there are many different factors that may influence someone to develop a dysregulated relationship to food, exercise, and their body. Generally speaking, we can talk about factors that increase the likelihood of someone developing an eating disorder such as:

  • Genetics: there is research that shows a person can have a genetic predisposition towards developing an ED
  • Environment; for example a home where there is a great deal of focus on weight loss
  • Trauma: psychological trauma of any kind may add to a person’s risk
  • Personality traits: for example, people who have traits such as high levels of perfectionism and of anxiety are more likely to develop an ED.

We can then consider what precipitates the ED starting – this might be as impactful as a major traumatic event or something as seemingly insignificant as going on a diet or it may be a series of smaller stressors.

Finally, it is also important to consider what keeps an eating disorder going once it has begun. This is often the focus of treatments. Examples can include things like fear of gaining weight, having to deal with difficult events in life, past trauma or the effects of starvation itself which changes the brain function.

There are a range of illnesses that come under the heading ‘Eating Disorders’.

Here are some of the most common: 

  • Anorexia Nervosa; characterised by an obsession with weight loss and an intense fear of gaining weight. This leads to restriction of food intake and other strategies to reduce energy intake overall.  
  • Bulimia Nervosa; characterised by episodes of binge eating followed by some action intended to compensate for the calories taken in during the binge, such as self-induced vomiting or restriction or use of laxatives for example. The intense fear of gaining weight and the obsession with weight loss are also present.
  • Binge Eating Disorder; characterised by episodes of binge eating followed by intense feelings of shame and guilt. Preoccupations with weight and body shape may also be present.
  • OSFED – Other specified feeding or eating disorder; used to describe an eating disorder that does not clearly fit one of the above designations but may have a mix of symptoms.
  • ARFID – Avoidant and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder; a new(ish) diagnosis that describes a form of extreme avoidance of most food types that leads to malnutrition or has severe psychosocial effects on a person’s life.   

Although the following collection of symptoms don’t have a specific diagnosis, we might also think about mental illnesses that are characterised by extreme control around food and weight or around appearance such as excessive gym use or obsessive ‘clean eating’.  

Eating disorders have a profound effect on a person and on the people around them. We might think about the physical complications of an eating disorder and the potential damage to the body that comes from malnutrition, especially for a young person who has not finished growing, but we can also consider the effect on people’s lives and relationships, on their ability to take part in a meaningful life, on their growth and development and the implications for the future.  

Early intervention provides the very best chance of a full recovery which is why it is so important to be able to offer help as soon as a person reaches out. At SWEDA we are pro-recovery; we believe that recovery is possible at any stage of an eating disorder and we encourage anyone affected to come and see us. 

SWEDA are a specialist charity and offer focussed eating disorder interventions at a range of levels of help. We try hard to tailor our offerings to match the person seeking help and consider their unique circumstances. Our clinicians and support workers are all specialists and will work with up to date knowledge and their own considerable experience to make sure what you are offered is suitable for you.  

SWEDA offers a range of different levels of support, aimed at meeting the needs of the individual client.  Ranging from our initial ‘support and guidance’ one-off session, through to counselling for the person with the eating disorder, there are several different pathways that the individual might be offered. See our services section for a detailed description.

SWEDA also offers support to parents, individual family members, loved ones and friends of a person with an eating disorder.  The person with the eating disorder does not need to be under our services for us to support their loved one. 

We also offer peer support groups for both people with eating disorders and for friends and family.  

Support is offered to children and young people under 18 as well as to adults. 

SWEDA have a presence in all of Somerset’s FE colleges which means that people attending one of these colleges can meet with one of our support workers in their college. You can contact us directly or reach out to your college welfare team for more information. We plan to offer the same service in Bristol, and this will roll out over the next few months.  

The majority of the services that SWEDA offers are free, although as a charity, we are always grateful for any donations

SWEDA offers low cost counselling at a rate that suits our clients. We suggest £25 for the assessment and between £10-£35 per counselling session but there is no expectation for you to pay a certain amount - only what feels comfortable for you. You will receive the same service, whether you make a donation of not. Read our Fees Policy here.

SWEDA cannot offer therapy for eating problems that are not related to eating disorder symptoms, in particular, if there is no focus on shape and weight. This is because it is likely that the problem is related to something other than an eating disorder. This might include weight loss due to fear of being sick or choking or be anxiety-related.  

We also cannot treat people who only eat a very narrow range of foods for example as we do not yet have the right expertise for this.  

No. Anyone who feels they may benefit from talking to someone about eating disorders is very welcome to get in touch with SWEDA.

The best way to contact SWEDA is by using our contact form. Anyone can contact us and someone will get back to them within a few days. People can also ring us on 01749 343344 and leave a message.

After an initial enquiry, someone will get back in touch to ask any further questions needed. If we feel SWEDA could help, we will ask the person if they would like a support and guidance appointment. This is a one-off session with a support worker and is a chance to talk about the issue and hear how SWEDA could help. Many people find these introductory sessions extremely valuable for taking the next step. You can do this if you want help for yourself or for someone else.

Anyone receiving a therapeutic service at SWEDA will have a full detailed clinical assessment to make sure that we are able to help you, that we can keep you safe, and to assess what type of help may be most suitable.

If you are a professional wanting to refer someone to us, please use our Professionals’ Referral Form. We accept referrals from GPs, schools/ colleges/universities, social workers, other mental health services, the NHS, other charities or support services, and most other organisations.

We do have pathways with some NHS trusts and if you are referred through one of these, the process may be slightly different.

Different SWEDA services offer different lengths of treatment so it will depend on what you are offered. However, your views on what you need are important too, so we are keen to hear what you feel you need. There is sometimes the option of extending a service if the need is there and SWEDA will do our best to offer different resources once a client has ended their sessions.   

The door to SWEDA is always open so you can return for help once you have left if you feel you need it. We may ask you to wait a short time if we feel that you need time to integrate the work already done. Clients also have the option of joining one of our support groups at any time before, during or after any other service.  

SWEDA has experienced clinicians who will undertake a full assessment with any clients receiving a SWEDA therapeutic service. This will help us to assess what you need and how to keep you safe. We also have good relationships with the NHS mental health and specialist eating disorder teams in Somerset and Bristol/ Avon and we can refer clients directly to them or gain a second opinion (with your permission) if we have concerns.  

We encourage all clients at SWEDA to visit their GP for check-ups and gain their consent to contact their GP if we have concerns. We have a comprehensive risk rating document to guide our risk assessment based on input from a range of relevant resources.  

We have two designated safeguarding leads at SWEDA to support the whole organisation with safeguarding concerns. Additionally, everyone at SWEDA also undertakes a course on safeguarding.  

SWEDA take confidentiality extremely seriously and respect your right to privacy. We will not tell anyone that you have contacted us nor speak to anyone about you without your permission.
The only exception to this would be if we felt you were in immediate and serious danger in which case, we may need to tell someone as we have a duty of care towards you. Even in this case, we would try to do this with your cooperation.  
If someone else referred you to us, we may need to contact them to gather more information. 

We may want to speak to any other professionals who are involved in your care. If this were to be the case, we would seek your permission before doing so.  

We may wish to refer you onwards to someone else. If we do, we will seek your permission to do this first.  

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