Eating Disorders Awareness Week

eating disorders

Eating disorders are recognized during the week of February 22, which is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The highest mortality rate of all mental health illnesses is with these disorders. The intention of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) this week is to educate people on the ways early intervention dramatically increases eating disorders recovery. One of the main points NEDA wants to get across is that it is not a phase. Their overall campaign theme is “I Had No Idea…”

Thirty million people — men and women of all different backgrounds, ages and sizes — will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their life. Eating disorders are complex; they are a mental illness and not just about choices. There are many different kinds, like Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Bulimia Nervosa.

Anorexia is defined by self-starvation in fear of being fat. BED is when excessive amounts of food are eaten, which make a person feel out of control, ashamed or disgusted over their behavior. Bulimia occurs when cycles of binge eating are combined with purging to compensate for the behavior.

Some of the physical symptoms of eating disorders include bad breath due to purging, decaying teeth, frequent trips to the bathroom after eating and malnutrition. The disorder can begin as a way to lose weight, before quickly spiraling out of control and developing into an eating disorder. Another symptom that is not as noticeable occurs when emotions, pain or sufferers’ lives are so stressful that people may begin controlling food. That control can become an eating disorder.

The single best thing anyone can do for those they suspect are suffering is to intervene. Intervention sooner than later is key to helping people with eating disorders recover. The easiest way to speak to someone about their issue(s) is to prepare with relevant news and information. The conversation should be initiated using a calm, open tone and in a safe and comfortable place. It is about respecting others for their diversity and giving positive compliments to individuals. This encourages a better self-image of a person’s body.

The key to addressing eating disorders is to bring awareness and education to those affected. Recovering from an eating disorder is possible with the right support and resources. If a person suspects someone has an eating disorder, there is a free screening tool online at MyBodyScreening.org. This can help detect an unhealthy relationship with food, and perhaps get the person open to wanting help. The hardest part is admitting and recognizing there is an issue. It is important to remember that when a person reaches out for help, it is not a sign of weakness.

This year’s theme for NEDA is “I Had No Idea…” The phrase is used in combination with other phrases to spread the awareness far and wide and to make the campaign easy to remember. The phrases speak a language all by themselves, like eating disorders are not a phase; often misdiagnosed or overlooked; do not discriminate; can be triggered by bullying; the determination for health was making me sick because exercise was all I thought about; and my passion for health or exercise became an issue.

Eating disorders are real. They affect millions of people. Eating Disorders Awareness Week was created to spread the awareness of and educate the public on the seriousness of eating disorders.

By Michele Enli

Sources:
Medical Daily
The Miami News-Record
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
Tyler Morning Telegraph

Photo by Jessica Wissel – Flickr License
Featured Image by Topeka Library Cropped for Size – Flickr License

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