Submitted by Bedford Youth and Family Services
An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. have an eating disorder in a given year. Despite the stereotype that eating disorders only affect young women and teen girls, nearly 1/3 of those with eating disorders are men. More than 13% of women over 50 engage in disordered eating. It’s an issue that can affect anyone from any walk of life.
Some eating disorders include:
- Anorexia Nervosa – characterized by an obsessive fear of weight gain, which can lead to calorie restricting, purging calories, and compulsive exercise.
- Binge Eating Disorder – characterized by frequent and compulsive overeating, marked by distress and lack of control.
- Bulimia Nervosa – characterized by bingeing and purging food.
- OSFED (Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders) – there are many ways in which people might engage in disordered eating behaviors, and sometimes they don’t fit neatly into a defined disorder. This can include body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive thoughts related to body size, and orthorexia, a preoccupation with healthy eating, “clean foods,” and excessive exercise.
Eating disorders are mental health disorders with physical symptoms. Like any mental health disorder, there are barriers to treatment, with more than 70% of those with eating disorders not getting help.
One of those barriers is feeling like you aren’t “sick enough” to get help, or that you don’t look thin enough to have a serious problem. But the truth is it’s never too early to seek out help if you might have an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are the most fatal mental health disorders, both because of the physical complications of disordered eating, and because it leads some of its sufferers to suicide.
The important thing to keep in mind is that eating disorders are able to be treated, and in fact, up to 80% of those who get help for an eating disorder are able to recover or improve significantly. Treatment can vary widely and could include therapy, group sessions, guidance from nutritional professionals, or medication. Often someone with an eating disorder will also be living with another mental health disorder, like anxiety or bipolar disorder, and so working with a mental health professional can make it easier to address all causes of disordered eating.
If you or someone you know might be engaging in disordered eating, consider getting help sooner rather than later.
While recovery is possible at any stage, early intervention can make recovery significantly less difficult for someone, both because the behaviors are less ingrained, and because disordered eating has done less damage to their body.
The last week of February is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which makes it a good time for you to take a free mental health screening at www.bedfordma.gov/youth under the screenings section and share this link with others in your life. You might not know who could be silently struggling with disordered eating.