National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) highlights the seriousness of eating disorders across the United States. The theme for NEDAW 2023 is C.A.R.E (Continue the Conversation. Act Early. Strengthen Recovery. End the Cycle). During the week, OWH encourages organizations, health professionals, and communities to increase awareness of disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders, share best practices for improving the quality of care, and engage in conversations about healthy eating and body image.
It is estimated that over 28 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders affect Americans of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, body shapes, weights, and socioeconomic statuses. While eating disorders can affect anyone, research has shown that people of color, and gender diverse and transgender individuals are among those least likely to receive a diagnosis or appropriate care. Eating disorders most often appear during the teen years or in young adults, however in recent years there has been an increase in cases among children and older adults.
Types of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are serious illnesses that are associated with disruptions in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Preoccupations with food, body, weight, and shape may be signs of an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
Risk Factors for Eating Disorders
Risk factors for eating disorders can include various biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. Some of the most commons risk factors include:
- Body dissatisfaction
- Appearance ideal internalization
- Anxiety disorder
- Limited social networks
- Historical trauma
- Having a close relative with an eating disorder
- Sexual trauma in childhood
- Experience of violence and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Food insecurity
Eating Disorders and Women’s Health
Eating disorders can negatively affect the body in many of ways. Untreated eating disorders can cause cardiovascular disease, tooth loss, gastrointestinal issues, seizures, brain damage, sleep apnea, bone loss, and many other health conditions. They can negatively impact reproductive and maternal health outcomes and can lead to miscarriage, low birthweight, obstetric complications, and postpartum depression. Eating disorders are also associated with an increase in anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. The combination of these factors can contribute to job loss, reduced productivity, and significant healthcare costs related to care, treatment, and support services. With early detection and intervention, full recovery from an eating disorder is possible.
NEDAW DAILY THEMES AND MESSAGES
During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we emphasize the theme C.A.R.E and what we can do to continue the conversation, act early, strengthen recovery, and end the cycle. Each day we will provide information on eating disorder symptoms, training resources for health care providers, and ways to get help for you, your family and friends, and others in your community.
MONDAY: CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
It can be hard to know where to start if you or a loved one has eating disorder symptoms. Starting the conversation early can prevent an eating disorder and provide resources to someone you know who may be living with an eating disorder.
Resources to Continue the Conversation:
TUESDAY: ACT EARLY.
By intervening early when patterns of disordered eating or symptoms of an eating disorder first appear, we can get individuals into needed care quickly and increase the chances of recovery. If you worry a family member, or a friend has symptoms of an eating disorder – don’t wait. Act early. Reach out and talk to them and help them get into treatment as soon as possible.
Healthcare professionals should also act promptly if they suspect a patient is exhibiting symptoms of eating disorder. Treatment options can include a combination of psychological therapy (psychotherapy), nutrition education, monitoring and sometimes medications. The National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (NCEED) developed an evidence-based tool SBIRT-ED tool to guide health professionals through conversations and connect patients to care and treatment options.
WEDNESDAY: STRENGTHEN RECOVERY
Eating disorders are medical conditions that should be treated by a diverse care team that may include health providers, nutritionists, psychologists, dentists, occupational therapists, and many others. Each individual is unique, and their recovery plan should be tailored to address their specific needs.
Having a supportive personal and professional network surrounding an individual living with an eating disorder is critical to creating a healthy space for individual to heal and recover. Click one of the links below to learn more about how you can strengthen recovery for someone you know.
THURSDAY: END THE CYCLE
Ending the cycle of disordered eating is possible. Individuals living with or at risk for an eating disorder should talk to their healthcare provider and a family member or friend that they trust. By starting the conversation, acting as early as possible, connecting individuals with professional care and treatment, and providing personal and emotional support, we can end the cycle of eating disorders.
Start today by finding a treatment provider in your area.
FRIDAY: COMMUNITY IMPACTS
Each individual and community is unique. Eating disorders affect people of all ages, races, body sizes and shapes, sexual orientations, and genders. Eating disorders also affect communities differently. By understanding eating disorders in each community, we can avoid making an eating disorder general type. Having a general type can lead to misconceptions. Misconceptions about who eating disorders affect have real consequences, leading to fewer or missed diagnoses, treatment options, and ways to help.
For more information on eating disorders in various communities, click here.
SATURDAY: EATING DISORDER RESEARCH
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is currently studying different aspects of eating disorders to understand how eating disorders develop, which treatment methods work best for each individual, and what components strengthen recovery.
To learn more about to NIMH research studies and how to participate, click here.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act invests $1 billion over the next five years in mental health supports in our schools, making progress towards the Administration’s goal to double the number of school counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals.
HHS Office on Women’s Health (OWH) awarded almost $1 million to address eating disorders in adolescent girls.
SUNDAY: WAYS TO GET HELP/WHAT TO DO IF SOMEONE IS IN CRISIS
It can be hard to know where to start to get help for yourself or a friend at risk for or living with an eating disorder. Acting early helps to prevent an eating disorder or can stop an eating disorder from continuing. With professional care and treatment, full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. If you suspect someone with an eating disorder is in crisis, get help immediately, by contacting one of the resources below:
Need Help Finding a Healthcare Provider? TreatmentFinder.gov
- Emergency Medical Services—911
- SAMHSA National Helpline 1.800.622.4357 SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
- 435748 (HELP4U) – Treatment Referrals via Text Message. SAMHSA’s National Helpline now offers free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information services via text message.
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (Call, Chat, or Text)
- Veteran’s Crisis Line 988, Press 1 (Call, Chat, or Text)