Kathryn Herbison's daughter Jessica has been in hospital since October with anorexia. Image Credit: Kathryn Herbison

A concerned mother has encouraged parents to check for warning signs as her daughter battles an eating disorder.

Kathryn Herbison’s 14-year-old daughter Jessica has spent almost three months at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after being diagnosed with anorexia.

Despite Jessica eating normally at the start of the first lockdown, her eating habits began to change in the summer.

Kathryn said: “I started to worry and notice something was wrong as she would drink water all the time, and was eating only a tiny amount very slowly.

“She was starting to look ill; people were noticing she was looking very tired and pale and she was so weak.

“Eventually she admitted she had a problem, and at that point, she was eating half a tin of soup a day and that was it.”

Jessica’s condition comes amid concern over a huge rise in the number of people suffering from eating disorders nationwide, following successive lockdowns.

The eating disorder charity, Beat, said that its helpline has seen an 81 per cent increase in usage since March.  

Jessica with her grandmother Carol Bright, mum Kathryn and sister Chloe. Image Credit: Kathryn Herbison

Her sister Chloe, 19, blamed social media for Jessica’s condition.

She said: “Social media was a massive trigger.

“It promotes supposedly healthy bodies and airbrushed pictures, and an idea of what people should look like.

“Girls and boys are constantly judging each other’s bodies and putting each other down, and this could potentially have been the reason this all started.”

Kathryn, a 47-year-old carer from Norwich, has stayed with Jessica in hospital due to coronavirus restrictions.

She now encourages parents to be vigilant for symptoms.

These include missing meals, changes to the menstrual cycle and light-headedness.

She added: “With anorexia, half the issue is admitting that you’ve got a problem, but Jess does – she wants to get better and she wants the help.

“Jess was so full of life and to see her now, she is so scared all the time of what it will turn her into, and that the real Jess is gone and will never come back.

“If parents notice anything different, the slightest thing, then keep an eye on it, speak to your GP, the school or if they are really concerned – I know people don’t want to come to a hospital at the minute – but get help.”

Anyone with concerns about eating disorders can call the charity Beat on 0808 801 0677.