Throughout the week of Feb 23-March 1 the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), will focus on the complicated and vexing problems faced by suffers and raising awareness to support individuals and their families. NEDA is an advocacy organization based in the U.S. who strives to provide better access to treatment, well as encourage more research, into the cause of the disorder and viable treatment options.
Dr. Aaron Krasner, a psychiatrist at Silver Hospital in New Cannan Connecticut and the director of the Adolescent Transitional Living Program, believes there is no one-size-fits-all remedy. For each psychiatric illness or eating disorder there can be a different preventative strategy, and he goes on to say that doctors still do not fully understand the pathophysiology of eating disorders.
Awareness of the issue could not be more timely, as recent data suggests psychological problems associated with diet and behavior are becoming more prevalent, and are more frequently occurring in younger children. It is estimated that as many as 24 million people suffer from eating disorders in the United States alone, and according the NADE, the disorder is becoming more common in elementary-aged children. Nearly 80 percent of 10-year-olds have a fear of becoming overweight.
The week-long focus on raising awareness of eating disorders is as important for society as it is to support sufferers and their families. Anorexia is the most lethal of all psychiatric illnesses, with a tragically high morbidity and mortality rate. According to Krasner, the course of the illness is more difficult to treat, and the outcomes are not as good as in other eating disorders.
In addition to understanding the most common and most deadly of these conditions, such as anorexic, bulimia, and binge eating, NEDA hopes the increased attention will bring awareness of some many people have never heard of. By increasing awareness of the more rare disorders, sufferers and their families have a better chance of identifying symptoms and seeking appropriate treatment.
One such disorder is Pica, which is identified by the strong desire and often secret consumption of non-edible things such as chalk, hair, dirt, sand, and even household cleaners. Pica has sporadically entered pop consciousness on television shows such as TLC’s My Strange Addiction; however, it remains difficult to identify as many sufferers keep their issues secret, and doctors often have a difficult time identifying the cause of Pica-related health issues. Common side effects of Pica include poisoning, bowel obstruction, and even death.
The week is also being observed in a number of other countries, including the United Kingdom. For those in the U.K. who wish to engage in raising awareness for eating disorders during the week of February 23-March 1 there are a number of workshops and fund-raising events being held. Supporters throughout the U.K. are encouraged to check local listings and colleges for events in their area. In the Lancashire area SEED, which stands for Support and Education of Eating Disorders, is hosting a day-long awareness event at Preston’s College including workshops and support groups.
By Mimi Mudd