Eating disorders affect an estimated 9 per cent of Australians at some point in their lives and up to 15% of Australian females.
Weight restoration is an important step in treating eating disorders and this is sometimes done though a nasogastric feeding tube. Feeding Tube Awareness Week is held nationally from 2-8 February 2020 and this week Queensland Alliance for Mental Health have teamed up with Eating Disorders Queensland to shed some light on the myths associated with eating disorders and the stigma associated with Nasogastric (NG) re-nourishing.
Some patients with significant weight loss due to restriction of food, may experience medical intervention with nasogastric (NG) re-nourishing treatment when hospitalised. Nasogastric (NG) re-nourishing can be used in conjunction with oral feeding during the initial stages of acute stabilisation to facilitate weight gain for medical stability.
Studies suggest that eating disordered patients who voluntarily receive energy through nocturnal NG will gain significantly more weight during treatment than those who receive energy through oral re-nourishing alone.
With an eating disorder comes a high level of psychological distress and significant physical health complications. Eating Disorders Queensland General Manager Belinda Chelius says eating disorder conditions have amongst the highest mortality rates of any psychological disorder.
“Having an Eating Disorder is a serious mental health issue, influenced by complex social and health determinants, and has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and a higher rate of death by suicide than that of the general population,” said Ms Chelius.
“There are many recognised eating disorders and people often assume that everybody with an eating disorder is very thin, or that we only support people who are below a certain weight, but this is not the case at all.
“Due to this weight stigma, eating disorders are often misdiagnosed or otherwise overlooked in some cases and can lead to poor health, depression and anxiety.”
Ms Chelius also goes into detail about the daily challenges someone on a Nasogastric (NG) re-nourishing program may face, particularly the mental health side.
“The intense fear of gaining even the slightest amount of weight, can evoke the most terrifying thoughts and feelings,” said Ms Chelius.
“From a lived experience perspective, the reality can be extremely traumatic for the individual.”
“Being involuntarily admitted and placed on an NG protocol in these states of being – when my perception and understanding is not the same as those who love and/or are trying to support me – are some of the hardest and most traumatic experiences I have ever had. They remain some of my most traumatic memories, even as I now reflect on them through different eyes, ones not covered by my eating disorder.”
As expressed by a lived experience eating disorder recovery mentor
Re-nourishing treatments can reduce complications and prevent mortality. All nutrition interventions must be timely and effective, but also safe and well tolerated.
Queensland Alliance for Mental Health CEO Jennifer Black has previous experience leading an eating disorders program and understands the challenges people face and how stigma of the illness can impact individual recovery.
“Eating Disorders do not affect any one gender, age, race, ethnicity, body shape, weight, sexual orientation or economic status and an individual doesn’t necessarily need to look unwell to deserve treatment,” said Ms Black
“Eating disorders, regardless of a person’s body shape or weight, can cause serious psychological, medical, metabolic and cardiac complications.”
“Positive body image messaging and promoting health and wellbeing above weight, shape, size and treatment is how we can mitigate stigma and labels.”
To find out more about the common misconceptions of eating disorders head over to eatingdisordersqueensland.org.au/