National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is an annual event to bring attention to eating disorders and the struggles that individuals with them face. Spreading awareness about eating disorders is crucial to breaking the stigma around these illnesses and providing access to resources. Many people think of a frail thin white woman when thinking about an individual with an eating disorder. The truth is, eating disorders can affect people of all backgrounds, genders and body sizes.
9 Truths About Eating Disorders
- Many people with eating disorders look healthy, yet may be extremely ill.
- Families are not to blame, and can be the patients’ and providers’ best allies in treatment.
- An eating disorder diagnosis is a health crisis that disrupts personal and family functioning.
- Eating disorders are not choices, but serious biologically influenced illnesses.
- Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.
- Eating disorders carry an increased risk for both suicide and medical complications.
- Both genes and environment play important roles in the development of eating disorders.
- Genes alone do not predict who will develop eating disorders.
- Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Early detection and intervention are important.
What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are not just about food, they are complex mental health conditions that can have a significant impact on physical health as well. Most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED). It is important to remember that eating disorders are not a choice, but rather a serious illness that requires professional treatment by a team of health care providers.
Anorexia nervosa: People with anorexia nervosa greatly restrict food and calories sometimes to the point of self-starvation. You can have anorexia at any body size. It is characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight, fear of weight gain, and often body dysmorphia.
Bulimia nervosa: People diagnosed with bulimia nervosa binge or eat, or perceive they ate, large amounts of food over a short period of time. Afterward, they may force themselves to purge the calories in some way such as vomiting, using laxatives or exercising excessively to rid their body of the food and calories.
Binge eating disorder (BED): People who have a binge eating disorder experience compulsory eating behaviors. They eat, or perceive that they have eaten, large amounts of food in a short period of time. However, after binging they do not engage in behaviors to rid themselves of the food. Often times they feel uncomfortably full and may struggle with shame, regret, guilt or depression.
Who is at risk for eating disorders?
- Eating disorders can develop at any age. They affect all genders, races, and ethnicities. It’s a myth that eating disorders mostly affect girls and women. Boys and men are equally at risk. Certain factors may make you more prone to developing an eating disorder, such as:
- Family history of eating disorders, addiction, or other mental health issues, such as depression.
- A history of trauma (physical, emotional, or sexual).
- Personal history of anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- History of dieting.
- Involvement in activities that focus on a slender appearance, such as modeling, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and running.
- Major life changes, such as starting a new school or job, a divorce, or a move.
- Having perfectionistic tendencies.
Eating disorder treatment
Eating disorder treatment depends on the disorder type and accompanying symptoms. Treatment typically includes a combination of psychological therapy (psychotherapy), nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes medications.
Depending on the severity of the illness and related health problems there are different levels of care for eating disorder treatment. These levels of care vary in the amount of time an individual is supervised and has structured meals as well as frequency of meetings or appointment with providers and/or group therapy. Treatment can range from medical stabilization to residential or inpatient treatment to intensive outpatient treatment and finally outpatient treatment. Level of care is often determined by the eating disorder treatment team. Individuals will often “step down” from one level to the next when going through treatment.
Avance Care is here for your recovery.
Avance Care has providers who are trained in eating disorder treatment. To get connected with our team, contact our nutrition coordinators at: 919.237.1337 option 4, or visit our website to learn more.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and need immediate help, call or text the national help line 800-931-2237
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment for Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T) https://www.feast-ed.org/
National Eating Disorder Association: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Academy for Eating Disorders https://www.aedweb.org/home
The Emily Program: https://www.emilyprogram.com/