EDV’s guiding principles are divided into three parts – evidence-based beliefs about eating disorders; our service philosophy; and our organisational culture.
1. Evidence-based beliefs about eating disorders
The following 16 principles explain our approach to information and support.
1.1 Eating disorders can be overcome – recovery is possible for anyone.
Recovery means different things to different people. We believe that recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one moves beyond the effects of the eating disorder. It is a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, behaviours and skills, so that one can live a satisfying, hopeful, fulfilling life, engaging as fully as possible with one’s family and the community.
1.2 There are many different pathways towards recovery – everyone’s journey is different.
What works for one individual will not necessarily work for all. It may take several attempts to find the right path, and different strategies may be needed at different times along the eating disorder journey. Just as the journey is individual and unique, so is the concept of ‘full recovery’. Only the individual will know when she/he is fully recovered.
1.3 Eating disorders are complex and serious mental disorders that devastate the physical, psychological, social and emotional well-being of the individual.
It is vital to destigmatise eating disorders by helping the community to understand that an eating disorder is NOT an illness of choice, a ploy for attention, a fad or a diet gone wrong. It is a dangerous, potentially life-threatening mental illness with physical effects.
1.4 The causes of eating disorders are many, complex and varied. No single issue can be blamed for the development of an eating disorder.
While every case is unique, the majority of eating disorder cases can be linked to low self-esteem, body image concerns coupled with an over-emphasis on the importance of body weight and shape, and an attempt to deal with these and other underlying psychological issues by using food (in an unhealthy way, such as dieting) as a mechanism.
1.5 Eating disorders do not discriminate. They can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age, socio-economic status, cultural background or ethnicity.
Eating disorders have been diagnosed in people aged from seven to 70, in boys and men as well as girls and women, and in people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, income levels, jobs and professions. We acknowledge that some people are more susceptible to developing eating disorders than others; these can include teenage girls (particularly those who are anxious or perfectionistic), and people whose careers or professions attach a high degree of importance to a thin or athletic body type (eg athletes, dancers, models).
1.6 While individual cases of eating disorders vary in their degree of severity, no type of eating disorder is more serious than the others.
There is a tendency for the community and media to wrongly assume that anorexia nervosa, which often has the most visible physical symptoms, is the ‘most serious’ type of eating disorder, and that other types of eating disorder are less of a concern. ALL eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and can result in dangerous and potentially life-threatening thoughts and behaviours. Every case of an eating disorder should be taken seriously and provided with treatment and support.
1.7 It is not possible to tell if someone has an eating disorder based solely on their outward appearance.
Despite the stereotypical portrayals of what an eating disorder looks like in the media, people in all bodies can have an eating disorder. EDV has a weight-inclusive approach to practices that recognises size diversity in eating disorder diagnosis.
1.8 People who are identified and treated early in the course of an eating disorder have the greatest chance of full recovery and are more likely to recover quickly.
While anyone may recover from an eating disorder, the response to treatment is significantly better for individuals who are treated early in the course of their illness – the earlier, the better. For this reason, we encourage people who are concerned about possible signs of an eating disorder NOT to ‘wait and see’, but to seek a professional assessment immediately. A person with possible signs of cancer would not be advised to ‘wait and see’ and nor should a person with a possible eating disorder.
1.9 The majority of people with an eating disorder will benefit from professional treatment.
We know that many people do recover without professional help. However, recovery will generally be quicker and more complete with professional intervention. Therefore we will always encourage people with suspected or known eating disorders to seek professional help. People who find treatment to have been unhelpful will be encouraged not to give up on professional treatment, but to try again with a different practitioner or a different treatment option.
The majority of people with eating disorders will benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment – ie receiving help from a variety of health professionals practising in different areas, working together. This may include, for example, a GP, dietitian, psychologist and paediatrician.
1.10 Choice in treatment is essential. There are many different forms of treatment for eating disorders and what works for one individual may not work for another.
Everyone’s experience of an eating disorder is unique and valid and should be acknowledged as such. There is evidence to support certain types of treatment being more effective for some age-groups and/or types of eating disorder. However, due to the limitations of the evidence, the uniqueness of factors contributing to each experience of an eating disorder, and the wide variation in response to treatment, information about treatment options and choice in treatment remains essential.
1.11 Support is as vital as treatment in the recovery process.
Support can come in many forms – family, friends, partners, teachers, community, professional, support groups, telephone, email and online support and self-help.
1.12 Eating disorders are chronic conditions, and people with eating disorders need long-term treatment and support.
With eating disorders, there is no ‘quick fix’. People with eating disorders need treatment and support, not just while they recover physically, but for as long as it takes to recover psychologically and socially. Relapse is a common occurrence, and the reality is that, for some individuals, the need for treatment and support may be life-long. People with eating disorders have a right to expect treatment and support for as long as they need it.
1.13 Connectedness and social inclusion are part of the key to long-term recovery.
People with eating disorders can feel disconnected from their family, peers and friends and become increasingly isolated. Encouraging sufferers to share their experiences in a safe and supportive environment helps them to gain insight into their illness, reduces isolation, connects them with others who understand, and assists them to feel they still have a place in society.
1.14 Families and carers of a person with an eating disorder require support, information and training.
Caring for a person with an eating disorder can be incredibly challenging, requiring a major commitment from the carer, the use of many new skills and a detailed understanding of the illness. Just as support, information and training is recognised as vital for health professionals treating people with eating disorders, so, too, it is essential for families and carers.
For many young people diagnosed with anorexia, there is strong evidence to support family-based therapy as the most effective model of treatment. We recognise that family involvement is not possible in all cases of eating disorders, but wherever it is possible, EDV will encourage and support the involvement of family members and/or other carers in the treatment of people with eating disorders.
1.15 Prevention is as important as cure.
EDV believes that many cases of eating disorders CAN be prevented, by reducing societal risk factors for eating disorders, and by promoting behaviours and ways of thinking that protect people who may be at risk of developing an eating disorder. Society needs to be encouraged to embrace the cultural changes that are needed to reduce body dissatisfaction and the pressure to diet; enhance self-esteem and encourage self-acceptance; reduce the pressure to be perfect; celebrate diversity, and reward people for what they are and do, not for what they look like.
1.16 EDV supports and endorses the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders.
The Worldwide Chart for Action on Eating Disorders provides for people with eating disorders, and their families and loved ones, a list of their basic rights and reasonable expectations regarding eating disorder treatment and services.
2. Our service philosophy
In addition to embracing our core values of respect, acceptance, and hope, the following seven principles explain our approach to service delivery.
2.1 Free, confidential, non-judgemental
All our support services are free, confidential, non-judgemental, and as flexible and open-ended as possible. (We do, reluctantly, have to charge fees for some education and training services, in order to remain economically viable).
2.2 Participation by choice
Participation in our services is by choice. Service users can decide when and how often they access and participate in services.
2.3 Easy access
Our assistance can be easily accessed, via the Internet, email, telephone and face to face.
2.4 Evidence-based and shared
Our information is reliable, factual, current, evidence based, and there to be shared. We believe in the open-handed sharing of our resources with all organisations whose aims and objectives are compatible with our own.
2.5 Diversity of approaches
Because everyone is different, we aim to use diverse means (eg written, spoken, artistic, interactive) to improve mental health, physical and emotional well-being, social connectedness and quality of life.
2.6 No disadvantage
We will do our best to ensure that disadvantaged groups have access to the organisation’s resources and processes.
2.7 Equality and diversity
We have a commitment to ensuring that our workplace and services shall be free from any form of discrimination.
3. Our organisational culture
The following eight principles underpin the organisational and workplace culture promoted within EDV.
3.1 Respectful and tolerant
EDV aims to create respectful and tolerant relationships between all staff and volunteers, recognising the value of the diversity in life experiences, personal beliefs and skills of all participants in the organisation.
3.2 Open and responsive
EDV recognises that staff and volunteers can be greatly informed by the experiences and knowledge of each other and the service users. EDV staff and volunteers strive to be open and responsive to constructive feedback and suggestions from each other and from service users.
EDV involves participants from all areas (staff, volunteers, board members, service users) in strategic planning, policy formulation and decision making.
3.4 Promoting best practice
EDV strives to develop, promote and apply best practice principles in the workplace.
3.5 A learning environment
EDV promotes an environment where learning and exploration can flourish, and encourages its staff and volunteers to make time for and participate in formal and informal learning opportunities.
3.6 A sustainable environment
EDV is committed to work practices which recognise and seek to reduce the impact of our workplace and activities on the environment.
3.7 Healthy, safe and welcoming
EDV is committed to providing an environment which is safe, accessible, comfortable, nonthreatening and as welcoming as possible.
3.8 Work/life balance
EDV recognises that work/life balance is integral to the welfare and morale of its staff and volunteers, and supports staff and volunteers in finding a good balance between work, personal/family life and community involvement.