National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 22 – 28, 2015

It’s no secret that the incidence of eating disorders is on the rise and has doubled since the 1960s. Yet the associated stigma helps keeps them hidden – only 1 in 10 people receive treatment.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is dedicated to drawing greater attention to eating disorders through events designed to reduce unhealthy attitudes about weight, body shape and size. This year’s theme is “I had no idea” (that eating disorders can destroy lives) aspires to address eating disorders misconceptions to help people become more aware of the devastating physical and mental consequences of eating disorders and of available resources to treat and support them.

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) urges us to talk with family, friends, colleagues and the community about eating disorders attitudes, behaviors and pressures during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Participation is intended to raise awareness that eating disorders are not lifestyle choices but serious illnesses; and to provide information, resources and treatment to the community.

Consider these US statistics:

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate and highest risk of premature death (from both natural and unnatural causes) of any mental illness.
  • 1 in 5 women struggle with eating disorders and disordered eating:
    • Up to 3.7% of females suffer from anorexia nervosa and 4.2% from bulimia nervosa.
  • 2% to 5% of both sexes experience binge eating disorder.
  • 10 to 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia and 40% with binge eating disorder are male.
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • 95% of eating disorders occur between the ages of 12 and 25, with roots beginning in young children:
    • Approximately 40% of 9 to 10 year old girls report being or having been on a diet to lose weight;
    • An estimated 11% of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder;
    • 10 – 50% of college-aged women reported binging and vomiting to control their weight; up to 19% of college-aged women are bulimic.
  • Dieting is a 50 billion dollar a year industry:
    • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full syndrome eating disorders.

In the US alone, 30 million people will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. Progressing conditions can become chronic, debilitating and deadly; while early diagnosis and treatment significantly enhance recovery.

Huntington Hospital hosts a free eating disorders support group the first Sunday of every month. This professionally run support group is open to people with eating disorders, their families and friends. Call Jeannie Gedeon, MPH, RD/CDN (631) 427-0002 for more information.

Sources: NEDA; NIMH 1994 & 2002; Am J Psychiatry 1995 & 1997; Rader Programs, www.anred.com; ANAD 10 year study; Clinical Psychology Review 1991; Shisslak, Crago & Estes 1991.

Jeannie Gedeon, MPH, RDN/CDN is a nutrition therapist specializing in counseling for eating, body image and weight issues and is an expert in the treatment of eating disorders and substance recovery.

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