Eating disorders, such as bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia, are serious illnesses that affect millions of Americans and people worldwide. Eating disorders are characterized by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body image, weight and shape. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018 runs from 24th February to 4th March aims to get more people talking about eating disorders, fight associated myths and misunderstandings, get people screened and start journeys to healing.
In 2001, Eating Disorders Awareness & Prevention (EDAP) and American Anorexia Bulimia Association (AABA) merged to form the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), an American non-profit organization. NEDA is devoted to preventing eating disorders, providing treatment referrals, and increasing the education and understanding of eating disorders, weight, and body image.
Eating disorders deserve attention as they are associated with many physical complications, mental illnesses, and increased mortality. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) affect both men and women. These disorders can occur among people of all ages and social backgrounds, and usually coexist with conditions such as anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and depression.
While the exact causes are unknown, it is believed that a number of factors influence these illnesses. A combination of biological, psychological, and/or environmental abnormalities contribute to the development of these complex disorders:
- Irregular hormone functions, genetics and nutritional deficiencies
- Negative body image and poor self-esteem
- Dysfunctional family realtionships
- Professions and careers that promote weight loss and being thin such as modeling
- Family and childhood trauma such as sexual abuse and other traumatic conditions
- Cultural and/or peer pressure among friends and co-workers
- Stressful transitions or life changes
The symptoms can have disastrous and even deadly consequences if not tackled at right time. Proper treatment can be highly effective for many of the specific types of eating disorders. Physicians, nutritionists, and therapists are involved in the treatment of eating disorders which usually involves one or more of the following interventions:
- Medical care and monitoring: Proper medical monitoring is crucial for effective outpatient treatment because patients with eating disorders are at risk of variety of physical and medical concerns.
- Nutrition: Patients with these complex illnesses should receive right level of vitamins and minerals throughout the treatment process. This helps them to develop normal and beneficial eating habits and behaviors. This part of the treatment would involve guidance on weight restoration and stabilization and normal eating, and the integration of an individualized meal plan.
- Therapy: This involves individual, family, or group psychotherapy, which can be helpful in addressing the fundamental causes of eating disorders. Therapy promotes recovery by providing the opportunity to address and heal from the traumatic life events and train in coping skills and methods for expressing emotions, communicating and maintaining healthy relationships.
- Medications: Patients with eating disorders suffer from a variety of physical and medical concerns which can be resolved effectively with specific medications. Medication-based approaches are vital for those who have an eating disorder along with another type of illness such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or psychosis.
Due to the severity and complexities of eating disorder conditions, professional treatment by a team of healthcare professionals specializing in eating disorders is often fundamental for proper healing and recovery. Treatment plans are often tailored to meet individual needs.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, get screened and find the right treatment. NEDA offers all the support people need to fight eating disorders and navigate the journey to healing.