The Need for Eating Disorder Awareness
Too often we forget that eating disorders aren’t simply about food, appearance, or beauty. Eating disorders are complex medical conditions that cause serious physical and emotional problems for people, and require treatment. Many misconceptions exist about eating disorders. It is important to dispel these myths to decrease stigma and encourage treatment.
Thirty million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point during their life. The majority of individuals struggling with an eating disorder also have a mental or behavioral health disorder such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse. The eating disorder may lead to the coexisting mental or behavioral disorder, or be the result of one.
Because of the potential for coexisting conditions as well as the nature of eating disorders, these illnesses have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. While there are serious physical complications that result from anorexia, individuals with anorexia are also eight times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Suicide is a leading cause of death for those with the disorder.
Anorexia is not the only eating disorder that carries an increased suicide risk. Results from a new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders indicate that all eating disorders carry an increased risk of death. The researchers concluded, “Suicide is a major concern not only in anorexia, but in all eating disorders.”
Fortunately, eating disorders are treatable. As with most illnesses, the earlier an eating disorder is detected and treated, the better chance exists for successful recovery. Mental health screenings offer a confidential way for individuals to learn if they have signs or symptoms of an eating disorder and how to connect with local resources for more information and help. Checking in on one’s mental health should be as commonplace as checking in on one’s physical health.
February 21-27 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) annual campaign brings attention to the critical needs of those living with eating disorders and their families. As part of the campaign, Screening for Mental Health and NEDA provide anonymous online screenings at mybodyscreening.org. The public can take a free, educational screening to learn if their symptoms are consistent with an eating disorder. While the screenings are not diagnostic, they can help someone who may be struggling with an eating disorder start a conversation with someone they trust, and seek the help they need.
Eating disorders are serious conditions that require attention from a medical professional. Online screenings are a great place to start. With millions of people affected each year, it is likely that you, or someone you know, could be struggling with an eating disorder. Share mybodyscreening.org with someone today.
Joanna Karbel, Program Manager, Screening for Mental Health, Inc.
Screening for Mental Health provides innovative mental health and substance use resources, linking those in need with quality treatment options. Screening for Mental Health’s programs, offered online and in-person, educate, raise awareness, and screen individuals for common mental health disorders and suicide.