Awareness of Eating Disorders

Our focus this week is on awareness of eating disorders. While eating disorders reveal themselves physically, they are complex mental disorders. It’s difficult to assign one definition to eating disorders because they take on different characteristics for different people. 

Who Is At-Risk?

While eating disorders can affect anyone at any stage in life, certain groups are at a higher risks than others. At-risks gross include adolescents, 12-25 year old, athletes, women, and those with  family history of eating disorders. While women and adolescents are the most prevalent represented groups, approximately 10 million men in the United States have been diagnosed with eating disorders. There are many more that are likely to go undiagnosed.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

The warning signs of eating disorders fall into the categories of physical and behavioral changes. Identifying and understanding these physical and behavioral changes can indicate psychological changes.

Physical Changes 

Those dealing with eating disorders will typically show changes in their appearance and their emotional state.  These changes are not all inclusive and vary with individuals.

  • Dramatic weight fluctuations
  • Frequent nausea
  • Lethargy
  • Negative changes in skin and hair

Behavioral Changes

  • An unhealthy obsession with food, which can include hyper awareness of calorie content, taking a long time to chew and eat, hiding food, cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone or in secret, or avoiding food.
  • Mood fluctuations 
  • Hyper focus on their bodies
  • Frequent visits to the bathroom
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Wearing bulky clothing to hide their bodies and to maintain body temperature

Treatment for Eating Disorders

It’s important for those suffering from an eating disorder to seek treatment sooner than later to deter any lasting effects of health problems associated with the disorder. The treatment can be intimidating to those in need for they don’t know what to expect. The first step towards treatment is getting a diagnosis from a medical professional which involves a screening or counseling session. 

Upon diagnosis, a medical professional or team will develop a plan to treat the physical an psychological health of the patient. Sometimes the person’s physical condition requires immediate attention and most require nutritional education once their physical state has stabilized. 

The most important aspect of treatment is to address the psychological condition. Physical conditions can be improved, but the longterm changes must be made in the behavior. Some treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, or family based therapy. Medications may also be prescribed. In severe cases, hospitalization of the patient may be required for stabilization.

As with any mental disorder, it is treatable and can be overcome. The first step is acknowledgment of a problem and seeking the needing help.