National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
Eating disorders is a term that includes various diseases - anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating, and February 25th-March 3rd 2007 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so in the spirit of awareness and enlightenment I would like to seize the opportunity to shed some light on these usually secretive disorders.
Let's start with the facts. According to the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health, these eating disorders frequently co-occur with other psychiatric disorders like depression, and anxiety disorders. Eating disorders don't have an effect on weight only; people who suffer from them can also experience serious heart conditions, kidney failure, and worst case scenario, death. Females are more prone to develop an eating disorder than males - 0.5-3.7% suffer from anorexia, 1.1-4.2% suffer from bulimia and between 2% and 5% of all Americans experience a binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.
As a concerned family member or friend how can you detect whether or not someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder? Usually dentists tend to be the first healthcare professionals to detect signs of the disorders so if you're a concerned parent ask your child's dentist if they have noticed any tell-tale signs of changes in the mouth or tooth damage consistent with eating disorders. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians other observable signs include the person showing excessive concern about weight or making statements about themselves that reveal a poor body image. Does he/she feel guilty after eating or for not exercising enough? For females who have started having their periods, are they now missing them? How about constant fatigue or tiredness or growing fine body hair?
The National Eating Disorders Association is a good resource for education and support for people suffering from eating disorders and their families. Their mission is to expand public understanding and prevention of eating disorders as well as promoting quality treatment for those affected and support for their families. Their website has lots of helpful links and even an information and referral helpline. Check them out.
Photo courtesy of strph.