In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Worldwide that number is nearly 70 million. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses that affect all kinds of people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, size, age, or background. In fact, eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid addiction, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website.
Conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder—among others—are all too common, and yet we talk about them far too infrequently. There remains much stigma surrounding the topic of eating disorders, and much discomfort in even broaching the subject.
The consequences of this stigma? Many people struggle with an eating disorder and never realize that they can get help; they never know that treatment works, and that recovery is possible. Meanwhile, many loved ones, friends, and family members remain in the dark about how eating disorders work and are unsure of how to help the people who need it.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, but myths and misinformation still keep people from getting the help they need. Eating disorders can present themselves as other things, such as depression or anxiety, making them hard for loved ones to spot. Familiarizing yourself with the signs of an eating disorder could help you or a loved one notice the signs and address the problem.
People who aren’t getting adequate food intake often experience a lower or anxious mood, and they’re more likely to withdraw socially. They may seem depressed, but when the eating issue is treated the depression dissipates.
Other common indicators of an eating disorder include:
- Dramatic or frequent fluctuations in weight;
- Preference to make one’s own meals, not have what others are having or eating something different from the rest of the family;
- Extreme food restrictions;
- Expressing excessive body dissatisfaction;
- Secretive exercise;
- Feelings of guilt after eating;
- Frequently weighing self;
If you suspect someone you know of battling an eating disorder, it is important to offer help and support. Contact your SOMOS doctor of you’re looking for help in broaching a conversation with your loved ones about healthy eating or if you have any questions or concerns about yours or a loved one’s health.