This year’s theme for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is “Come as You Are: Hindsight is 20/20”, which encourages people who have or previously had an eating disorder to reflect “on the positive steps they’ve taken — including those stemming from setbacks or challenges — toward accepting themselves and others.”
Knowing that eating disorders are misunderstood and or stigmatized by many, we wanted to take this time to break down what they are, the impact they have, and highlight available resources for people living with them.
What are eating disorders, and how many people are affected?
Eating disorders are a category of mental and physical illnesses that affect a wide range of people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights. These illnesses are serious and sometimes life-threatening, and develop differently in different people. While treatable, the recovery journey can take time and is an ongoing process for many.
Eating disorders can be challenging to diagnose and sometimes are part of a co-occurring disorder, a condition in which someone has a co-existing mental illness or substance use disorder; and can make the precise scope of the impact hard to quantify.
National surveys estimate that 30 million Americans – 20 million women and 10 million men – will have an eating disorder at some point in their life. To put the size of this population into context, the top three most populous states in 2019 were California with 39,512,223, Texas with 28,995,881, and Florida with 21,447,737, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Are there resources available to help?
Thankfully, there are a range of resources available for people and their loved ones living with eating disorders.
- Learn how Kaiser Permanente can help:
- Find online resources that can help with understanding mental health, including info on early signs of the disease in adolescents, how to get care, types of care, and common conditions.
- Explore free wellness resources, including self-care tools, tips, and activities.
- Recovery Record, a mobile application for eating disorder management:
- Helps patients to learn in the context of everyday life;
- receive feedback, encouragement and evidence-based resources for coping;
- use cognitive-behavioral meal monitoring as a cornerstone of effective treatment;
- and check-in with their mood, meal, symptoms, thoughts and triggers.
- There are also options for Help & Support from the National Eating Disorders Association:
- Contact the NEDA Helpline by phone at (800) 931-2237 or chat online at nationaleatingdisorders.org/chat. This free and confidential resource can help you find options for support, additional resources, and treatment options for you or a loved one.
- The Eating Disorders Screening Tool – appropriate for ages 13 and up – can help determine if it’s time to seek professional help.
- You can also learn about the steps you can take to offer support as a loved one or professional.
Whether you or your loved one is living with an eating disorder, or you’re simply trying to better understand these conditions along with other mental and physical health issues, the takeaway is the same: There are resources available to help. We all have the power to improve the experiences of those around us by promoting practices that encourage self-acceptance and the acceptance of others.
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