It is Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Identify the Problem and Get Help

Kelly Knox, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, FNP-C works at Atracare in the Walk-In Clinic Department.

 

This week is the 39th Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW). This year, the focus is Strength through Experience and Knowledge by recognizing It’s Time for Change. As a medical provider who is passionate about physical and mental health, and someone who has personally suffered with disordered eating, I stand with the National Eating
Disorders Association (NEDA) by stating that it is time for change, awareness, education, and ending the stigma.

Not all eating disorders look the same, although people group the vision of disordered eating with an underweight emaciated female the truth is that under 6% of people with an eating disorder (ED) are underweight, and 1 in 2 people with an ED feel as if they do not deserve help because they are not “sick enough.”

There are various types of ED’s with the most common including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, AFRID, OSFED. Often, individuals suffer a combination of these diagnoses. The cause of ED’s is unknown but is found to be caused by several factors such as sociocultural (weight stigma, stereotyping, or bullying), psychological (perfectionism, body image dissatisfaction), and biological (a close relative with an ED, history of dieting). Eating disorders are not a choice, but rather are a complex psychiatric and medical illness that can develop and/or relapse at any age.

A few pertinent statistics provided by NEDA include:

  • Young people with anorexia have 10x the risk of dying compared to their peers.
  • Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia.
  • Binge eating disorders are more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia, and is 3x more common than anorexia and bulimia combined.
  • The largest known contributor to ED’s is sociocultural idealization of thinness.
  • 40-60% of elementary school aged girls from ages 6-12 are concerned about becoming fat.
  • 97% of individuals with an ED have a co-occurring condition such as a mood disorder, anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, or substance abuse disorder.
  • Over 80% of teenagers are trying to lose weight.
  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to experience bulimic behavior.
  • Low-income teenage girls are 153% more likely to be bulimic than wealthy teenage girls.

Some warning signs of ED could include but not be limited to, dieting, low self-esteem, extreme concern with body or shape, gastrointestinal complaints, preoccupation with food, weight changes, skipping meals, isolation, excessive exercise, eating in secret, or leaving meals to use the restroom.

This week Delaware’s General Assembly signed the Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention Week into law, and in March of 2022 Delaware also declared March Eating Disorder Prevention and Awareness Month. Both changes are a step in the right direction to advance our recognition, raise our awareness, and end the stigma of disordered eating.

To learn more about ED’s and to find ways to get involved or to find free or low-cost support take advantage of the NEDA website, Mental Health Delaware, as well as Eating Disorder Hope.

If you are a medical provider, you can implement the screening tool for ED’s in addition to using eating disorder guidelines.

The reality is that ED’s have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders only surpassed by opioid use disorders. As a whole, lets further our education, awareness, and join as one to end the stigma of disordered eating. Together, the Time for Change can be now.

If you or someone you know needs help, our Mental Health Department offers help and support for patients with Eating Disorders.  To make an appointment, visit our Mental Health site or fill out an Appointment Request Form now.

Resources:
NEDA. National Eating Disorders Association. (2022, August 19). Retrieved March 2, 2023, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

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