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CenterPointe Blog

Think Pointe

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 26th- March 3rd is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The goal of Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to educate the public about the realities of eating disorders and to provide hope, support, and visibility to individuals and loved ones affected by eating disorders.

According to the National Associates of Eating Disorders, 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime and 3.3 million lives have been lost worldwide due to eating disorders.

Did you know eating disorders are a type of mental illness? At CenterPointe, we treat individuals of all ages who are struggling with mental illness, including eating disorders. This can include bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake (ARFID). We treat youth and adults from ages three on up.

Often a person with an eating disorder will have symptoms of another mental health condition that requires treatment. We create a specific individualized treatment plan that is tailored to each person’s specific needs as everyone’s goals and needs are unique. The treatment plan can include medication management, talk therapy, and community referrals, such as a dietary referral if needed.


What are common eating disorders?

Anorexia- Anorexia is restricting energy intake leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health. It also includes fear of gaining weight, disturbance in body image, and denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

Anorexia can lead to a number of significant health problems over time, including thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis), anemia, muscle wasting and weakness, brittle hair and nails, blotchy, or yellowish skin, growth of fine hair all over the body, constipation, low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse, feeling cold all the time due to drop in internal body temperature, feeling faint, dizzy, or weak, feeling tired all the time, infertility, damage to the structure and function of the heart, brain damage, and multiorgan failure. Anorexia can be life threatening!

Binge eating disorder (BED)-BED is an episode of binge eating characterized by the following: eating an amount that is considered to be more than most people would eat within a 2 hour period, lack of control over the eating during the episode, eating more rapidly than normal, eating until uncomfortably full, eating when not feeling hungry, eating alone due to embarrassment, feeling disgusted with self, and feeling distressed. These episodes occur on average at least once weekly for 3 months.

Bulimia-Episodes of binging with compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain including vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications. Episodes typically occur at least once a week for 3 months.

Avoidant restrictive food intake (ARIFD)- Limiting the amount or type of food eaten. Unlike anorexia, individuals experiencing ARIFD do not have a distorted body image or extreme fear of gaining weight. ARFID is more common in middle childhood and usually has an earlier onset than other eating disorders. Many children go through phases of picky eating, but a child with ARFID does not eat enough calories to grow and develop properly, and an adult with ARFID does not eat enough calories to maintain basic body function.


What are common myths surrounding eating disorders?

Myth: Eating disorders are something that we choose.

Fact: People do not choose to have any mental illness, including an eating disorder.

Myth: In adolescence, the parent is at fault for the eating disorder.

Fact: Genetic and environmental factors can contribute to eating disorders. A person’s genes can put them at risk; however, social pressures can lead to the disorder.

Myth: It is uncommon for a child to have other mental health illnesses besides their eating disorder.

Fact: Eating disorders are often associated with other mental health illnesses including depression, anxiety, and OCD.

Myth: Usually, it is just thin people who have an eating disorder.

Fact: Although anorexia is characterized by extreme low weight, many individuals who struggle with bulimia, binge eating disorder, and other disorders are of normal weight. Unfortunately, due to the misconception that an eating disorder only occurs in persons who are thin, it is frequently misdiagnosed, or a diagnosis is delayed.

Myth: Eating disorders are not serious.

Fact: Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Women ages 15 to 24 years of age who suffer from anorexia nervosa are twelve times more likely to die from the illness than any other cause of death.

Myth: Eating disorders are uncommon among youth.

Fact: In children it is the third most common chronic illness in adolescents behind asthma and obesity.

Myth: Eating disorders are usually just about food.

Fact: When struggling with calorie restricting, binging, purging, or over-exercise, this is usually a way for a person to have control over something in their life and is not just about food.

Myth: My child cannot recover from an eating disorder.

Fact: When receiving the appropriate treatment, approximately 60% of individuals with an eating disorder can fully recover. The appropriate treatment includes an experienced physician, a registered dietitian, and a mental health provider.

Myth: An eating disorder cannot lead to death.

Fact: Without treatment, 20% of individuals with chronic anorexia nervosa will die of the disorder, which is more than any other mental illness.


Who is at risk for an eating disorder:

  • People who have a first-degree relative increases risk.
  • People with Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Research has shown that up to 39% of women and 15% of men with type one diabetes will develop an eating disorder. The most common pattern is skipping insulin injections, known as diabulimia, which can be deadly.
  • People with a history of dieting.
  • People who are not satisfied with body image.
  • People with a history of mental health conditions.
  • People that have difficulty regulating their emotions or have no emotional awareness.
  • People with a history of a substance use disorder. Research has shown that up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders use alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population.
  • People with a history of teasing or bullying.
  • People with limited social networks struggle with loneliness and isolation.
  • People who have experienced trauma including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and childhood trauma.


What do you do if someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder?

Addressing an eating disorder with someone you love can be incredibly challenging. Listening to them without judgment, criticism, or advice can be hard but also helpful. Make sure that they know you are there for them. Keep trying to include them in things and try to encourage them to join in on activities and to feel as though they belong and are valued. Try encouraging them to get help or offer to go along with them.

Contacting a professional, including a nurse or a doctor, can be an important first step. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call CenterPointe and schedule an appointment with one of our providers at 402-475-5161.