With all those women’s magazines and the television constantly talking about body image – and very often insisting that the ‘best’ body image is an extremely thin one, it is no wonder young women suffer from eating disorders. But it is not only the media that constantly talks about it; social media such as Facebook, which often means your friends and family are at fault too.

If someone gets a little overweight they are harassed and bullied or treated unkindly by their peers, siblings and sometimes their parents. This makes them feel that their self-worth is measured by their weight, which is in reality very far from the truth. But this is where it starts and before long all that person can think about is that they must lose weight, no matter how thin they have become already.

It is what a person thinks about their body image that makes them end up with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Thus, these diseases are basically mental health issues. If you or a loved one has such a problem, it is imperative to get help as soon as possible because these diseases can cause such damage to your body that they are almost worse than drugs.

Unless the sufferer starts eating properly their body will end up shutting down with an organ failure of some kind. The body is meant to be taken care of and nourished, not starved of nutrients for years on end. The trouble is people with an eating disorder will constantly think that they are overweight, even when they are stick thin, so they don’t see the need for any treatment, unless it is to lose even more weight.

Treatment consists not only of care and nourishment for the body, but counselling so that the person can be gradually trained to see themselves as they are and to feel self worth in spite of their body image, or their dissatisfaction with their body. The person is often hospitalised so that they can be in a controlled environment where staff can keep tabs on how much they eat. They may also need to be force-fed or to have a drip if they are dehydrated.

It is mainly in Western countries that dissatisfaction with the body image is seen as a factor in diseases such as anorexia nervosa. In Asian regions people who are emaciated are often that way for another reason and body image dissatisfaction is denied.

They may starve themselves for spiritual reasons, through illness, due to fears of choking or aversion to the texture of certain foods, or even because of food allergies. But the result is the same; their body becomes damaged and unhealthy because it is not given the right nutrients for life and health. So don’t let your loved one continue along this destructive path but get them help as soon as possible.