National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is held across the United States each year in February, with this year’s observance beginning Monday, February 25 and lasting through Sunday, March 3. Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder are serious, life threatening conditions that affect the lives of over 30 million Americans and their families each year, with women making up two-thirds of this population. Eating disorders are not limited by age, gender, or socio-economic status and can affect all races and ethnic backgrounds.
Having an eating disorder is often overlooked as a serious mental illness, which is a dangerous stigma, as eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. While many consider eating disorders to be a condition that only affects young girls, particularly those in their adolescent years, men and women of all ages can suffer from this illness. Because having an eating disorder is such a widespread mental health crisis, it is important to recognize the symptoms of an eating disorder in a loved one and encourage them to seek help. Below are some common warning signs that an individual has an eating disorder:
- Complaints of body insecurity and discomfort. An individual may voice negative or obsessive thoughts about body size or shape or persistent worries and complaints about being fat or the need to lose weight.
- Fear of eating in front of others. An individual may avoid situations that include eating in front of others or in public, as well as make excuses about not being able to eat with friends or family.
- Changes in appearance and physiological behavior. Physical signs that an individual may be suffering an eating disorder include significant loss, gain, or fluctuation in weight, puffy cheeks due to swollen salivary glands, hair loss, dry hair or skin, or excessive facial or body hair. An individual may also develop irregular sleep patterns and feel faint or excessively tired during the day.
- A shift in eating habits. An eating disorder does not just mean that an individual is limiting the amount of food they eat. Excessively restricting food, overconsumption of food, and secretive eating can all be signs of an eating disorder.
- Changes in social life and hobbies. An individual suffering from an eating disorder may isolate themselves from family and friends in favor of isolation and independent activities. One independent activity to look out for is the excessive need to exercise, which can be a sign of an eating disorder.
If you feel that your loved one may be dealing with an eating disorder, it is important to help them seek help before they endanger themselves. Our Counseling & Wellness Centers staff are trained to deal with a variety of mental health issues and can assist you in finding the resources you need to address concerns with a potential eating disorder. To learn more, call our toll-free number at 833-444-NEST (6378) or click the button below to request an appointment.