This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, recognizing conditions affecting several million people nationwide, with 10 percent of women ages 12 to 35 reporting symptoms. Eating disorders also occur in males, but less frequently. An eating disorder is defined as any range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits.

Eating disorders may result from a combination of behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, and/or social factors. The most common are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Those suffering from eating disorders usually ‘feel fat’ and see themselves as overweight, despite semi-starvation or malnutrition. In the early stages of these disorders, most deny the problem. Those with Anorexia and Bulimia tend to be perfectionists, suffer from low self-esteem, and are extremely critical of themselves and their bodies. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse problems, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Childhood trauma may increase the risk of the development of these disorders, and numerous studies indicate that trauma or brain chemical imbalances may also be a factor in eating disorders.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, reach out, learn about your resources, and most of all, do not give up.

Did You Know?

  • Eating disorders are typically seen as a teenage girl’s condition, but in 2003, 1/3 of ED inpatients were over 30.
  • Body dissatisfaction is growing within middle aged women more than doubling from 25% to 56% between 1972 and 1997.
  • New stressors include: Strict cultural standards regarding women, weight, and appearance, current fear of obesity, unattainable media images; and the association between body size and success.
  • 60% of adult women have engaged in pathogenic weight control.

Signs and Symptoms

  1. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, despite being underweight
  2. Frequent and rapid binges marked by lack of control
  3. Extreme dieting and/or exercising
  4. Regular induction of vomiting or use of laxatives to expel food intake/lose weight
  5. Dry, yellowish skin; brittle nails; thinning hair; constant chill; chronically inflamed sore throat; tooth enamel wear; loss of menstruation in females
  6. Individuals may not fit into traditional diagnosis of anorexia or bulimia. Additional conditions to look out for include orthorexia, binge eating disorder, and OSFED

Learn more from the National Eating Disorders website.

Sources: National Eating Disorders Awareness, LifeWork Strategies, and Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For medical advice, consult your physician. Feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.