It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week and, already, I've come across several references to eating disorders as illnesses that affect girls and young women. No mention of boys. Or, if there is a mention, it's only a passing reference. But, you know what? (And I know that most of my readers DO know, especially Sam Thomas of Men Get Eating Disorders Too who spends most of his waking hours trying to raise awareness of this inescapable and stark fact.) BOYS AND MEN GET EATING DISORDERS TOO!
I will say it again: Eating disorders are NOT just a 'girl thing'.
In a way, I wish they were, because then my son Ben would never have developed the eating disorder that robbed him of three crucial years of his teenage life with the fall-out still evident and messing up parts of his life today, almost 5 years on. That's a shocking ONE QUARTER of his entire 20-year-long life!
It is so important to raise awareness of the fact that males get eating disorders as well as females - and that these eating disorders are every bit as serious. Not simply so they get diagnosed by the medical profession sooner and get treatment, but so families can recognise the signs of an eating disorders in their son and take action.
Back in spring 2009, just under 5 years ago, my husband and I had no idea that boys got eating disorders. So we didn't recognise the warning signs as they began to emerge. Not until the eating disorder had become quite advanced did the penny suddenly drop about why Ben was behaving so strangely around food and losing so much weight. And why he seemed to be transforming from the boy we'd raised into a volatile stranger.
This is because we never, ever in a million years expected A TEENAGE BOY to get anorexia! Just as we would never expect a young person to show the signs of dementia or another illness that we would never, ever associate with this particiular demographic.
Our GP didn't recognise the warning signs of an eating disorder either. And, when we eventually got treatment for Ben 4 months after I first took him to see the GP, the treatment team had no experience of dealing with anorexia in teenage boys.
Also, they would never actually refer to it as 'anorexia', because Ben's BMI was never 'low enough' to meet the official criteria, despite the fact that he'd lost one quarter of his original bodyweight and went on to lose even more.
Which, I imagine, is pretty common with boys who've been big, burly rugby players or sportsmen like Ben and whose BMI was probably sky-high before he fell sick.
As you know, I write this blog because I don't want other families to go through what we went through. I want to raise awareness of the signs of eating disorders in boys and help to empower families to seek urgent, evidence-based treatment.
But I, along with Sam Thomas of Men Get Eating Disorders Too and a number of others, don't want to be the only voices shouting in the wilderness that BOYS AND MEN GET EATING DISORDERS TOO.
It's time the media, healthcare experts and so on woke up to the fact and stopped referring to eating disorders as a 'girl thing'.
And, as one of my Facebook friends has discovered today and sent me this link to the very excellent Kartini Clinic blog, eating disorders in males go back centuries!