"Eating disorders, such as bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia, are serious illnesses that involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding food, exercise, and body image. Contrary to common stereotypes, eating disorders affect all kinds of people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, sexuality, or background. In fact, 30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
But despite the staggering number of people affected and the reality that they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, eating disorders often live in the shadows and most people don’t get the help they deserve."
This week's Speaker Series was from Dr. Allison Chase discussing "Body Talk: Dispelling the Myths About "Healthy" Body Image and Eating!" be sure to check out the presentation here!
We've brought in guest blogger, Ani Mirasol, to talk more about this important issue.
When I was in high school, I watched in terror as my best friend disappeared right in front of my eyes. She went from being this happy, outgoing, bright cheerleader to a weak, tired, and pale shell of the girl I had grown up with. She was “too busy” to eat, or sleep, or hang out, or come to think of it, do much of anything. I didn’t know at the time, but my friend was fighting an invisible monster who was determined to end her life. But no one could see it. Luckily, my friend was able to receive treatment and recovered from her eating disorder. Here’s what you need to know about eating disorders.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are complex, serious mental illnesses with profound psychological, medical, and potentially life threatening complications. People can and do die from complications related to their eating disorder; in fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses, as well as an increase risk of death by suicide. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, and category of other specified feeding or eating disorders.
Who develops an eating disorder?
Eating disorders do not discriminate; they affect people of all ages, races, socioeconomic status, regardless of background, ability, or beliefs. People with eating disorders have varied body shapes and sizes; there is no one body type of someone with an eating disorder.
Many eating disorder behaviors overlap and share issues related to low self-esteem, intense anxiety, guilt and shame, preoccupation with food, as well as an inability to understand or believe the severity of the illness. People with eating disorders often struggle with other mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Signs and symptoms of eating disorders
Eating disorders often go undetected, even by parents, teachers, and medical professionals. Most people will keep their eating disorder a secret. That’s the thing with eating disorders. They do NOT want to be known. People who struggle with eating disorders will go to great lengths to keep their behavior secret. When confronted, many people will become defensive, minimize, excuse, or lie about their behavior.
So then, what should you know to look for? Here are some things to be aware of:
- Self esteem overly related to body image
- Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
- Dramatic change in weight or body shape/size
- Frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after eating
- Eating when not hungry, eating to/past point of discomfort, or eating alone
- Intense fear or weight gain or loss
- Obsessive preoccupation with weight, food, health, and/or exercise
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen strictly adhered to regardless of weather, illness, or injury
- Secretive or ritualistic food behavior, eating secretly, stealing or hoarding food
- Evidence of purging behaviors, such as smell of vomit, use of diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives
What can you do?
If you are concerned about the behavior of a loved one, set aside a time to talk with them privately about your concerns. Let them know you care for them and are worried about their health and wellness; avoid blaming, shaming or using ultimatums. You may include examples of behavior that are worrisome. Encourage your loved one to talk with a medical and/or mental health professional who is familiar and trained in the treatment of eating disorders, including a doctor, counselor, or registered dietician. You could offer to help them locate these professionals and accompany them to their first appointments. Remember, many folks will initially deny or minimize their behavior. Continue to offer love and support, expressing that you want them to be healthy. To learn more about eating disorders, treatment options, and ways to get involved, visit:
National Eating Disorder Association