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Butterfly Helpline prepares for surge in calls as eating disorder distress expected to increase this holiday season

Butterfly 4 mins read
Mia Morrissey - Quiet the Noise

The national charity for eating disorders is calling for donations to help support an estimated 750,000 Australians living with an eating disorder who experience a highly distressing eating disorder ‘voice’ or noise in their heads, which is expected to intensify over the Christmas and holiday season.

 

  • An estimated 75% of those living with an eating disorder (ED) have experience with an ‘eating disorder Voice or Noise’[1]
  • Stressful life events, such as Christmas, can lead to eating disorder relapse[2]

For those living with an eating disorder, food-centric holidays, such as Christmas, can be exceptionally challenging and Butterfly, the national charity dedicated to supporting all Australians living with eating disorders and body image concerns, is anticipating a significant surge in contacts to their National Helpline and other services. With over 1 million Australians living with an eating disorder and less than a quarter receiving treatment or support[3], the need for support is more critical than ever.

The 'eating disorder Voice or Noise’ is a persistent inner dialogue revolving around weight, shape, and eating behaviours, which amplifies during stressful events like Christmas with potentially damaging consequences. Research shows that eating disorder self-talk plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of disordered eating behaviour[4]. Individuals diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa who reported a strong eating disorder voice or noise tended to suffer from more severe eating disorders[5], and the power inherent in the eating disorder voice has been linked to the high rate of relapse[6].

During summer, where warmer weather can mean wearing less clothes and more attention on the body, we also see an increase in the severity of eating disorders and increased hospital admissions[7].

Butterfly has observed a consistent year-on-year increase in calls to its helpline during the holiday period, a trend that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, between December 2022 and January 2023, Butterfly received nearly 3,500 calls - 15% more than the same time in the previous year and a substantial 32% increase compared to 2019. According to Butterfly, the pressure of 'new year, new me' diets and exercise regimens further contributes to this surge in calls.[8]

As Melissa Wilton, Head of Communications and Engagement from Butterfly explains, "For many Aussies, the holiday period is a happy time with family gatherings over food; but for those with eating disorders, it's a heightened period of stress and pressure where the eating disorder noise grows louder than ever. A staggering 75% of those living with an eating disorder contend with this internal struggle and often highlight it as a pivotal aspect of their eating disorder that requires clinical intervention."

“We encourage anyone experiencing this noise or signs of eating disorders and disordered eating to reach out for support. At Butterfly our Helpline counsellors are qualified mental health professionals with specialist training in eating disorders and body image, ready to help quiet the noise for anyone in need of support this holiday season. Donations are also vital to ensure we can continue to provide this critical support to Australians who need it more than ever”, adds Melissa.

Well-known Australian actress Mia Morrissey is also lending her voice to raise awareness about the 'ED Noise' by sharing her own lived experiences.

Mia’s complex relationship with food began when she was 10 years old, however it was at the age of 15 when her life was feeling out of control that she began engaging in behaviours which ultimately led her to becoming dangerously underweight.

Mia explains how her “eating disorder noise was completely isolating. It was all consuming; a deafening cacophony of shame, anxiety, and hopelessness. And for a long time, I thought that noise was all I would ever hear. But recovery, to me, has meant quieting the eating disorder noise by learning to hear the other noise. The noise of joy, art, love, hope and above all strength”.

The charity is also appealing for donations to sustain its vital virtual and in-person support groups and programs for people experiencing an eating disorder or body image issue and for their carers, friends, and family, as well as supporting the launch of its new virtual intensive outpatient program – a much needed step-down care for people with eating disorders on leaving hospital.

To access more information, resources, or donate, please visit butterfly.org.au/quietthenoise. With the support from the Australian public, Butterfly can continue to quiet the noise and offer a lifeline to those in need this holiday season.

-ENDS-

 


[1]Pugh, M. 2020. Understanding ‘Ed’: A theoretical and empirical review of the internal eating disorder ‘voice’. Psychotherapy Section Review 65 (2020). https://chairwork.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Pugh-2020-Understanding-Ed-review-of-the-EDV.pdf

[2] Grilo, C. Pagano, M. Stout, R. et al. 2012. Stressful Life Events Predict Eating Disorder Relapse Following Remission: Six-Year Prospective Outcomes. International Journal of Eating Disorders, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275672/ 

[3] Butterfly Foundation, 2022. The reality of eating disorders in Australia. https://butterfly.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/The-reality-of-eating-disorders-in-Australia-2022.pdf 

4Scott, Hanstock, Thornton, 2014. Dysfunctional self-talk associated with eating disorder severity and symptomatology, Journal of Eating Disorders, 14 (2014). https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2050-2974-2-14

[5] Pugh, M. 2020. Understanding ‘Ed’: A theoretical and empirical review of the internal eating disorder ‘voice’. Psychotherapy Section Review 65 (2020). https://chairwork.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Pugh-2020-Understanding-Ed-review-of-the-EDV.pdf 

[6] Scott, Hanstock, Thornton, 2014. Dysfunctional self-talk associated with eating disorder severity and symptomatology, Journal of Eating Disorders, 14 (2014). https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2050-2974-2-14 

[7] Liang, CS., Chung, CH., Tsai, CK. et al. 2018. Seasonality of hospital admissions and birth dates among inpatients with eating disorders: a nationwide population-based retrospective study. Eat Weight Disord 23, 233–240 (2018)

[8] Butterfly Foundation, 1800 ED HOPE National Helpline Calls, 2019-2023

 


About us:

Media Contacts

Harriet Potter

Communications Manager

Ph: 0451 837 044

E:  harriet.potter@butterfly.org.au

Emma Hopgood

Edelman for Butterfly Foundation

Ph: 0435 671 617

E: butterflyPR@edelman.com

 

About Butterfly Foundation

Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. Butterfly is on a mission to create a more ‘Body Kind’ Australia, where young people grow up treating their own bodies and all bodies with respect and kindness. Butterfly has been running school prevention and intervention programs for over 17 years, supporting both primary and secondary schools to help kids thrive and learn to love their bodies from a young age.

Editor and producers note

Please include the following support line details in all media coverage of this story and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders. 

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:

·        Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or support@butterfly.org.au 

·        Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23

·        For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14

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