Butterfly helpline expecting surge in calls over holiday period due to eating disorder ‘noise’

Posted 7 months ago by David McManus
The Butterfly Foundation has reported a year-on-year increase in calls made by people in distress during the holiday season. [Source: Shutterstock]
The Butterfly Foundation has reported a year-on-year increase in calls made by people in distress during the holiday season. [Source: Shutterstock]

Eating disorder ‘noise’ — what is it and what does it mean for the holiday season?

Key points:

  • People may experience anorexia as a result of body dysmorphia, anxiety disorders — such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or autism spectrum disorders
  • Research has suggested that as many as 75 percent of people who live with an eating disorder experience a sort of ‘eating disorder noise’ or ‘voice’
  • Butterfly, the national charity for eating disorders, is calling for donations to help support an estimated 750,000 Australians living with an ED


The Butterfly Foundation has called for the public to dig deep this holiday period and donate, ahead of a projected surge in the number of calls to its helpline which responds to distress calls.

The national charity for eating disorders 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, Butterfly reportedly received nearly 3,500 calls between December to January — an increase of 15 percent when compared to the 2021 – 2022 period and up 32 percent from ‘19 – ‘20.

According to Butterfly, the pressure of ‘new year, new me’ diets and exercise regimens further contributes to this surge in calls — in addition to the food-centric holiday celebrations and the historic association between Summer and body image.

Well-known Australian actress Mia Morrissey is also lending her voice to raise awareness about the ‘ED noise’ that many people who live with an ED have reported experiencing.

Ms Morrissey said her own lived experience is that of a persistent inner dialogue revolving around weight, shape and eating behaviours, which is amplified during stressful events like Christmas with potentially damaging consequences.

“Eating disorder noise was completely isolating. It was all-consuming; a deafening cacophony of shame, anxiety and hopelessness,” Mia said.

Mia became dangerously underweight at the age of 15, following a complex and difficult relationship with eating that started at the age of 10.

“[…] I thought that noise was all I would ever hear.

“Recovery, to me, has meant quieting [sic] the eating disorder noise by learning to hear the other noise. The noise of joy, art, love, hope and — above all — strength.”

It is important to note that the actress is not the only one affected by this issue. Studies have shown that self-assessment has a significant impact on the development and maintenance of disordered eating habits.

Furthermore, the power of the ‘eating disorder voice’ has been linked to high relapse rates among individuals struggling with these issues.

Butterfly Head of Communications and Engagement Melissa Wilton encouraged Australians to donate, to support Australians who live with ED throughout the holiday period and assist with funding the Butterfly Foundation’s new virtual intensive outpatient program for people leaving the hospital.

“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, Ms Wilton said.

“A staggering 75 percent 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 [sic] 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”, Melissa added.


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 [email protected]

      Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23

      For urgent support call Lifeline on 13 11 14

To donate to the Butterfly Foundation, please visit the online support page.


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