By: Courtney Giardina, Regular Contributor
An estimated thirty million people will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. I want you to go back and read that first sentence again. With that number, it is very possible that someone in your life is currently struggling and you’re unaware. That is why this year’s “I Had No Idea” campaign from the National Eating Disorder Association is such a powerful one.
February 22-28 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Making there no better time than now to fully understand the severity of eating disorders and how you can make a difference. When it comes to anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders, the earlier the treatment and intervention the better as over long periods of time these disorders can wreak havoc on the body. Below are 4 common misconceptions regarding eating disorders. Having an understanding of these misconceptions will put you on the right track to making a difference.
1. There is an easy fix to eating disorders
When involved in conversations about eating disorders or reading posts and articles online there is one thing I’ve noticed when it comes to those who do not understand the psychological impact of an eating disorder. That is that there is an easy fix. If you’re anorexic, eat. If you’re bulimic, just stop throwing up. That’s like me asking a smoker not to light that next cigarette. It is not that easy. Dr. Mark Warren, from Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders says “Having an eating disorder means having neurological or neuroanatomical organization of your brain that creates enormous barriers to eating normally. These barriers include visual and sensory distortions, impacts on reward centers and executive organization of the brain, distortions of senses of fullness and hunger, and over evaluation of body size and shape, in addition to other issues that may be present.”
2. An Eating Disorder is a Choice, Not an Addiction
It is possible that someone with an eating disorder made a choice to diet or to handle stressful or emotional situations by using food as a deterrent. However, for those who believe that a switch can be flipped on and off, this is very in accurate. Having an eating disorder can quickly escalate. According to The Center for Eating Disorders, this has become person’s main way of coping with an intense emotional issue or difficult life event and healing can only be done with proper treatment, rehabilitation and support.
3. I Will Be Able to Tell If Someone Has an Eating Disorder
Although it is very common for those who struggle with anorexia to be underweight, it is not safe to assume that all those underweight have an eating disorder. It is also just as common for those who struggle with bulimia and binge eating disorders to either be at a normal weight or even overweight. Also, according to the National Eating Disorder Collaboration, those who struggle with eating disorders become very good at hiding their behavior so that those around them are unable to tell that anything is wrong. So an outward appearance should not be a judgment factor.
4. Eating disorders aren’t that serious
Besides short term effects such as dry skin, fatigue, dehydration and muscle loss, there are many long term consequences of eating disorders. Some more severe than others, including diabetes, ulcers and heart failure. Studies show that eating disorders actually have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness.
Now that you have a better understanding of the severity of eating disorders, I encourage you to spread the word. What are some great ways you can become active in creating awareness in your community?
Courtney was born and raised in a suburb outside of Rochester, NY. She now calls Charlotte, NC home. Each day she lives by the motto that we create the life we imagine for ourselves. Her debut novel Tear Stained Beaches was released in 2013, her second novel is currently in editing and she has begun work on novel #3. Having a passion for cheerleading most of her life, it’s no surprise her spare time is spent currently as the head coach for a local middle school team and also as part of the Charlotte Hounds Major League Lacrosse dance team. She tweets under @sweetangeleyz and shares her latest adventures at The Girl Behind the Covers.