OCH recognizes National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 25 February 2022 at 12:34 pm

‘It affects the lives of tens of millions, and thanks in part to the pandemic, has only gotten worse.’

MEDINA – Orleans Community Health has recognized this past week as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week to dive deeper into this mental health condition, according to information from Anna O’Keefe, RD, CDN, clinical dietitian at Orleans Community Health.

Anna O’Keefe

“There has never been a time that this topic needs more attention than right now,” O’Keefe said in a press release. “For starters, this not a challenge for one gender, one age group or a single demographic of our society. It affects the lives of tens of millions, and thanks in part to the pandemic, has only gotten worse.”

It is estimates that 30 million Americans have struggled with an eating disorder at some point over their lifetime, said Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association. That breaks down to 20 million women and 10 million men.

Mysko shared information from the National Institute of Mental Health stating among teens 13 to 18, 3.8 percent of females and 1.5 percent of males are reported to have an eating disorder.

In addition, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders says 13 percent of women older than 50 engage in disordered eating behaviors. This statistic doesn’t refer to having an eating disorder necessarily, but instead refers to the number of people who may do things like create certain rules about eating or obsess over being thin.

Sixteen percent of transgender college students are reported to have an eating disorder, according to the ANAD. Although statistics about eating disorders in this population group are not consistent, the NEDA states that bay, lesbian and bisexual teens are thought to be at a higher risk of binge eating and purging.

Eating disorders are classified as a mental health illness that causes constant and extreme food disturbances and are severe in nature. A healthy relationship with food is virtually impossible for those who suffer and it can consume their entire livelihood.

Like many mental health diseases, this does not just impact one aspect of life, but all aspects, including physical, mental and social wellbeing. Eating disorders are serious illnesses, and left untreated can cause detrimental consequences, including death.

O’Keefe added the term “eating disorder” is an umbrella term for many subsets of this disease, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

Eating disorders are diagnosed based on criteria from the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” which are the psychiatry standards used for diagnosing mental health disease. Anorexia Nervosa involves restriction of calories to the point of severe and significant weight loss. Individuals who suffer typically have distorted body image and can have a pathological fear of food and weight gain.

Bulimia Nervosa involves eating a large amount of food within a short amount of time and compensating for this via purging (vomiting), laxatives or excessive exercise. Individuals with this disease can often present as normal body weight.

Binge eating disorder involves reoccurring episodes of eating a large amount of food rapidly, beyond the point of fullness, and typically having no control over these episodes. This is the most common eating disorder in the United States, according to O’Keefe.

This disease does not discriminate and people of all ages, genders and body sizes are at risk to some degree.

More information on signs to be aware of, how to be supportive and treatment can be provided by one’s healthcare professional. O’Keefe added that recovery is possible.