Eating Disorder Awareness & Education

It’s important to become familiar with eating disorder information and education. With the distorted images portrayed by the media or the many stereotypes that exist, it may be confusing to understand exactly what an eating disorder is or the various types of eating disorders. Having knowledge and understanding about the different kinds of eating disorders and their characteristics can be beneficial in increasing awareness of these complex diseases.

Awareness can lead to prevention and early diagnosis and treatment. Familiarity with eating disorders can also lead to increased consciousness and empathy for those who are suffering or struggling while decreasing the stigma often associated with these mental illnesses.

Eating Disorders describe illnesses that are known by irregular eating habits and extreme concern about body weight or shape. Eating disturbances may include inadequate or excessive food intake, which can ultimately be damaging to a woman or man’s overall well-being.

The most common forms of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. These mental health illnesses affect both females and males and can occur during any stage in life.

husband comforting wife

Although these conditions are treatable, the symptoms and consequences can be injurious and deadly if not appropriately addressed. Eating disorders commonly coexist with other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or depression. Learn more about the causes, signs, and types of eating disorders.

Table of Contents
    Women Weighing Herself

    Anorexia Nervosa

    Women or men who struggle with anorexia nervosa will usually have an obsessive fear of gaining weight, refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, and an unrealistic perception of body image. Many individuals with anorexia will severely limit the quantity of food they consume and perceive themselves as overweight, even when they may be clearly underweight.

    Anorexia can result in harmful health effects, such as brain damage, multi-organ failure, bone loss, heart difficulties, and infertility. The risk of death is highest in individuals with this disease. Learn more about this eating disorder information like types, symptoms, and effects of anorexia.

    Bulimia Nervosa

    This eating disorder is characterized by repeated binge eating followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or inappropriate use of laxatives or diuretics. Men and women who suffer with Bulimia may fear weight gain and feel severely unhappy with their body size and shape.

    The binge-eating and purging cycle is usually done in secret and can result in feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of control. Bulimia can have injurious effects and consequences, such as gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration, and heart difficulties resulting from an electrolyte imbalance.

    Binge Eating Disorder

    Individuals who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder will frequently lose control over his or her eating. Different from bulimia nervosa, however, episodes of binge-eating are not followed by compensatory behaviors, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. Because of this, many women and men who suffer with binge-eating disorder may be obese and at an increased risk of developing other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

    The individual who struggles with this disorder may also experience intense feelings of guilt, distress, and embarrassment related to their binge-eating, which could influence further progression of the eating disorder.

    Weight and Body Image Disorder

    Body image is defined by how a person perceives themselves. Negative or distorted body image refers to an unrealistic view of how someone sees their body. Body image perceptions begin to develop in early child and are influenced by family members, feedback from peers, and various life experiences. Personality traits such as perfectionism and self-criticism can also effect the development of a negative body image.

    Woman Measuring hands

    A sign that may indicate a woman or man has negative body image include obsessive self-scrutiny in mirrors, frequent comparison of shape and size to other individuals, or envy of the body of a friend or celebrity. If is often early dissatisfaction with appearance or body that can influence the development of disordered eating.

    Exercise, Nutrition, & Orthorexia Nervosa

    woman stretching

    Exercise and nutrition are fundamental for overall good health, but extreme behaviors can raise red flags, indicating unhealthy behaviors. Examples of this include: excessive exercise, weight obsessions, chronic dieting and disordered eating. Whenever exercise or nutrition are taken to the extreme, negative health consequences can results and include exhaustion, injuries, amenorrhea, anxiety, depression and isolation.

    The common forms of extreme behaviors with exercise and nutrition are excessive exercising and Orthorexia (a fixation or desire to eat only “healthy” foods).

    Eating Disorder Information, Research, and Statistics

    Eating Disorder Research and statistics are important and relevant because they given current information about these debilitating illnesses. Having updated research and statistics can give treatment professionals the knowledge needed to improve treatment methods, techniques, and approaches.

    Research and statistics can also help eating disorder professional understand areas of the field that are limited or that may benefit from additional investigation and study. These are important to the public in that they inform and create awareness about these mental health illnesses.

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    Getting Involved in Eating Disorder Awareness

    There are many ways you can become involved in the campaign for eating disorder awareness and prevention. Currently, there are many dedicated individuals and groups who promote eating disorder awareness, prevention, and treatment for eating disorders and who passionately believe in positive change.

    You can help promote positive change by becoming involved in one of the many advocacy groups available across the nation, participating in events such as the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week or by joining in a lobby day. Other ways to become involved in Eating disorder awareness is by writing your own letter to congress or exploring and joining a non-profit organization that supports Eating Disorders.

    Any way you decide to participate, whether big or small, can create a monumental change and will allow you to play a significant role in the lives of men and women who are fighting for their lives. Consider becoming involved in the campaign for Eating Disorder Awareness, prevention, and treatment today! Learn more details about getting involved in eating disorders information and awareness.

    Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC Avatar

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