Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Feb. 24 – March 1

If you or someone you love is fighting an eating disorder, know you aren’t alone. Eating disorders affect people of all ages, genders, races, sexual orientations and backgrounds. Characterized by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating behaviors, eating disorders over time can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health as well as their ability to function in everyday activities.

The most common types of feeding and eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating

“Eating disorders can be complex,” said Cheri Harrison, pediatric program coordinator for Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center. “Individuals experiencing eating disorders may obsess on their weight, the shape or size of their body, past occurrences in life, mental health concerns and or food. This intense focus can lead to excessive and sometimes restrictive eating behaviors that may contribute to physical or emotional complications.”

Severity of the eating disorder symptoms can vary and may include social discomfort, increased emotional distress, medical concerns, problems with development and growth, anxiety, depression, social and relationship problems. In severe and long-lasting instances, an eating disorder can lead to death. Though the exact causes of eating disorders are unknown, it is generally believed that a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors play a role in the disorders.

Not all eating disorders present the same way. 

A teen experiencing an eating disorder may present differently than an adult experiencing that same eating disorder. Compensating for the behaviors related to eating disorders may also look differently among individuals, ages, genders and cultures. A common misconception is that teens who experience eating disorders “grow out” of it.

Treatment depends on type of disorder and symptoms. Typically treatment includes a combination of psychotherapy, nutrition education and medical monitoring. In more severe or longer lasting instances, inpatient programming or hospitalization may be needed.

If you have questions about eating disorders and possible treatment options, talk with your primary care physician or visit Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center, which offers dietitian and behavioral health support for people with eating disorders.

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