Written and medically reviewed by Dorcas Morak, Pharm.DMonday, February 27 through Sunday, March 5, 2023 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This annual campaign educates the public about the risks and realities of eating disorders and helps provide support for those struggling with eating disorders. For ideas on how to get involved, visit the Eating Disorders Awareness Week Collaborators page, sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are mental and physical illnesses that, while serious, are treatable. They affect people of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, body weights, and body types. While there is no one cause of eating disorders, social, biological, and psychological factors are thought to contribute to their prevalence.
Eating disorder facts:
- Nearly 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder during their lifetimes.
- About 10 million American men will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetimes.
- Eating disorder prevalence worldwide increased from 3.4% to 7.8% between 2000 and 2018.
- About 70 million people internationally live with eating disorders.
- Almost half of all Americans know someone with an eating disorder.
- A person’s weight is not always an indicator of whether they have an eating disorder. Anyone, regardless of weight or body type, can suffer from an eating disorder.
What are the types of eating disorders?
According to American Psychiatric Association, the main types of eating disorders are:
- anorexia nervosa
- bulimia nervosa
- binge eating disorder (BED)
- avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
- other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED)
- rumination disorder
What causes eating disorders?
Little is known about the exact causes of eating disorders. A combination of some of the factors listed below are believed to contribute to the development of eating disorders:
- family history of eating disorders or mental illness
- certain diseases such as type 1 diabetes
- psychology (perfectionism, poor body image, anxiety disorders, etc.)
- life experiences (bullying, body shaming, societal and peer pressure, etc.) Research showed that a large percentage of people with eating disorders mentioned life experiences, such as body shaming and bullying, as the cause.
What are the possible symptoms of eating disorders?
Symptoms of eating disorders include:
- constantly feeling cold
- inducing vomiting
- weight fluctuation
- difficulty concentrating
- irregular menstrual flow
- muscle weakness
- impaired immune system
- brittle nails
- poor wound healing
- dry hair and skin
What are the behavioral and emotional signs of eating disorders?
If you have an eating disorder, you may show the following behavioral or emotional signs:
- a compulsion towards dieting, weight loss, and control of food
- discomfort eating around other people
- eating small portions of food at regular meals
- having extreme mood swings
- skipping meals
- excessive chewing
How are eating disorders diagnosed?
The first step in receiving an eating disorder diagnosis is to talk to your healthcare provider. You can use this free online screening tool to determine whether you may need professional help. Your healthcare provider will ask you a series of questions and may then recommend blood tests, urine tests, electrocardiograms, or other tests.
Can eating disorders be treated?
Yes, eating disorders are treatable, but recovery is individual-specific. The success rate depends on your type of eating disorder, age, and the treatment you receive.
What are the treatment methods for eating disorders?
Treatment options for eating disorders include:
- talk therapy
- nutrition education
- complementary and alternative medicine such as massage, light therapy, and acupuncture
Are there medications for the treatment of eating disorders?
Medications can help you recover from an eating disorder. They are usually prescribed in combination with other treatment options. The right medication for you depends on your symptoms. You may be prescribed medications in the following classes:
- seizure medications
- nutritional supplements such as calcium, iron, and zinc may also be prescribed to you if you have other health complications
How can I get involved in Eating Disorders Awareness Week?
You can get involved by:
- learning about eating disorders and how to seek help
- sharing educational resources on eating disorders on social media with hashtag #EDAW2023
- showing people how medication cost is not a barrier to their treatment with an rxless coupon
- donating to fundraising efforts