Renewed Focus on Mental Health
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDA) takes place every February to raise awareness of the dangers of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
Unfortunately, around 10 million Americans are affected by an eating disorder at some point in their lives, including children as young as 6 years old. Even more startling is that an estimated 50 percent of people with an eating disorder develop it before age 21. The good news is that eating disorders are treatable; with proper care, most people who are affected can overcome their condition and see improvements to their mental health.
The Basics of Eating Disorders
The average person with an eating disorder does not look any different from you or me—but these diseases are not about looks so much as self-image and mental state. Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and others like them are serious mental illnesses.
Eating disorders involve major distortions of body image and can manifest in a multitude of ways. For example, one person struggling with mental health conditions regarding their body shape could feel like minor weight gain is devastating. Another person may see themselves as overweight even when they are underweight.
It’s vital that we all come together to educate ourselves on eating disorders in hopes of providing greater support for those who need it most. Eating disorders are often misunderstood and ridiculed, but these diseases affect 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men nationwide each year. Additionally, it can be tough to talk about them without having a true understanding of what they are or how they develop.
Supporting a Loved One with an Eating Disorder
When a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, it can be difficult to know how best to offer support. Even when you recognize that your loved one is sick and needs help, it can be hard to know what words or actions will offer comfort or assistance. Luckily, there are many ways you can help a loved one struggling with an eating disorder.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, or ANAD, offers a downloadable approach guide encouraging tips to support loved ones who may be struggling with an eating disorder. Some tips for having an initial conversation include the following three steps:
- Make a plan. Do research about eating disorders so you can better understand the myths and stigmas attached to this disease. Organize your thoughts and what you want to say by writing them down. Pick a time to talk when you and your loved one will be relaxed and have plenty of time to focus on the conversation.
- Express your concerns. Remain nonjudgmental as you express your concerns about the behavior of a loved one battling an eating disorder. Allow them to respond honestly and openly. Listen with compassion. Be prepared that they may not be ready to get help for their eating disorder.
- Provide encouragement and offer support. Depending on how the conversation goes, loved ones may need time to reflect on what you just talked about. Give them space but revisit your concerns to let them know you care. You may need to tailor your support based on where the person is in their process of healing.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2022
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the National Eating Disorders Association. So for the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the organization wants others to see the change that has been created as awareness is raised about eating disorders. Then, they want to encourage everyone to be a part of the change by using hashtags to build a community of support for those battling eating disorders.
You can join the conversation by using #SeeTheChange, #BeTheChange on social media.
For more on ways to support efforts by the NEDA please visit their official website.
Celebrate American Heart Health Month by identifying symptoms of heart disease and improving your diet and exercise routine.