In an effort to draw attention to the millions of people who wrestle with issues surrounding eating and body image on a daily basis, this week—the last week in February—has been dubbed National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week (nedawareness.org).
The National Eating Disorder Awareness website asserts that in the United States alone, 30 million people have or have had eating or food issues: approximately 20 million women, and 10 million men. People of all ages and genders are affected, though statistics show that women are far more likely to exhibit these issues than men, and 95% of those with eating issues are between the ages of 12 and 25.
The prevalence of eating issues in women over men may be partly due to the stigma surrounding seeking treatment; men may feel less inclined to admit they have a problem and reach out for help than women. However, female adolescents remain especially prone to the obsessive dieting and body image issues characteristic of eating disorders, largely due to media messaging and peer influence.
NEDA’s “I Had No Idea” video series highlights the effects of eating disorders that go beyond the people experiencing them; family members and loved ones also feel the strain.
Allison Krieger Walsh, who is on NEDA’s Board of Directors, shares how she “had no idea” that her eating issues would impact her ability to have children until her doctor pointed out her issues with fertility. Don Blackwell, who says his daughter had an eating disorder, shares about the efforts he has made to understand the role of a father in offering support and guidance.
A woman named April talks about the importance of offering “nonjudgmental support,” which she strives to do with her sister, who is currently undergoing treatment for eating issues. Many others share their stories, as well.
Another lesser known fact is that the mortality rates for eating and food issues, particularly anorexia, are significant—in fact, they have the highest rate of fatality of all mental health conditions. Restrictive or disordered eating and excessive exercise take a toll on the mind and the body; heart and/or organ failure are the unfortunate consequences for some.
Eating issues can be complex and can originate from other mental health issues. In a 2012 TEDx Talk video, physician Laura Hill explains what is really happening in the mind and body of someone with an eating disorder:
The hope is that the more people are aware of the consequences associated with anorexia, bulimia, and other forms of disordered eating, as well as how widespread and common these issues are, the more likely people are to intervene and offer support to those who are experiencing them.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Eating disorders statistics. Retrieved from http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
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