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We know that there is stigma and stereotypes surrounding eating disorders so this can make it difficult in understanding but also choosing the best way to help. However, keeping an open mind and empathising can make a difference – just knowing that someone is there and cares can go a long way, as well as knowing what options of support are available.

Seeing a loved one struggle with any mental illness can be hard, and eating disorders are no exception. We want to help them as much as possible and want our help to be productive rather than destructive. To ensure this, it is important to be able to identify the symptoms of an eating disorder.

The symptoms of an eating disorder are not just limited to being at an unhealthy weight. They also differ depending on the type of illness one is afflicted with. A person suffering with an eating disorder will often have an unhealthy relationship with food. They may avoid social events so as not to feel pressured to eat or to eat in front of people, and when presented with food they may come across as extremely picky and as if they’re playing with their food. They may be focused on calorie counting more so than someone on a simple diet and may not allow themselves treats.

There are some simple things one can do to help someone who’s struggling with an eating disorder. Encouraging them to see a healthcare professional such as a pharmacist or their GP gives the opportunity to get expert help and explore treatments such as therapy and medication. As someone close to them, you can ensure they have someone they can confide in about their disorder. There are phone services, such as the Samaritans and BEAT, which offer confidential advice for sufferers and anyone who wants a listening ear.

Five things to know about eating disorders:

  1. Eating disorders are not synonymous with being underweight. Someone who is overweight could also be suffering with an eating disorder.
  2. Eating disorders can be linked to other mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. They could be related to, or partially caused by, a trauma in someone’s past.
  3. Added pressure from social media and celebrity lifestyles can worsen eating disorders as it can add to the worry over the way one looks.
  4. Men suffer from eating disorders and conditions such as body dysmorphia, however they are less likely to seek help due to stereotypes and prejudices surrounding it.
  5. Recovery can take years. A healthy and stable weight is not the final stage. Mental trauma surrounding the conditions can take many years to recover from.

We pray that you have healthier relationships with food and become successful upon the road to recovery, Ameen.

From all of us at Inspirited Minds we hope you had a blessed Eid, taqabalAllahu minna wa minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us).

We pray that Allah has accepted all your ‘ibaadah (worship), allowing you to experience many more years of Ramadan and improvements. Just like every year Ramadan goes by quickly as it comes, but it humbles us with the hunger, encourages good deeds and reminds us of our purpose with (re)connecting to Allah. Although this special month has passed that doesn’t mean our ability to do good ends here, may He give us the motivation to do better for the rest of the year also!

Jamilla Hekmoun

Jamilla is a final year undergraduate studying Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and Vice President of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, she is keen on improving the understanding of mental health conditions within Muslim communities. Follow her on Twitter @JamillaTweets.

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