National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDA Week), which takes place during the week of February 21 – 27th, is an annual campaign that aims to educate the public about eating disorders as well as provide hope and support to those affected by eating disorders.
How Do We Define Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are patterns of behavior that can be characterized by persistent disruptions in the way a person eats. Eating disorders affect up to 5% of the population and typically develop in adolescence and young adulthood. Eating disorders are believed to be a result of chronic stress and/or intense emotions and can become very serious. If not treated, eating disorders can have negative effects on a person’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being.
The most common types of eating disorders include:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder
People with an eating disorder present with a few common behaviors. This can include things like:
- Restrictive eating
- Avoiding certain foods
- Binge eating
- Purging (vomiting)
- Laxative misuse
Behaviors related to eating disorders can appear in many people with the same intensity and drive as those suffering from substance addiction.
Eating disorders are often found to co-occur in people who are inflicted with other mental health issues such as mood and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and alcohol and drug abuse issues. Some evidence does suggest genes may play a role in the development of eating disorders.
Treatment options usually combine psychological and behavioral adaptations along with medical and nutritional education. For instance, a mental health therapist may work with a client using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) while a doctor and/or nutritionist may help that individual understand how purging behaviors and/or malnutrition can negatively impact their health. With the right treatment plan, individuals with eating disorders can regain their emotional and mental health and develop healthy eating habits.
How to Recognize National Eating Disorder Awareness Week
It is believed that 30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime. There is a good chance you may know someone who is currently struggling with an eating disorder or has struggled in the past.
To bring awareness to this issue, the NEDA campaign is organizing nationwide walks. To partake and find a walk near you, visit https://www.nedawalk.org/.