Aspirus observes National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, provides recovery tips
For the Tomahawk Leader
WISCONSIN – In recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Aspirus Health is sharing information on identifying and recovering from eating disorders.
This year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week began on Monday, Feb. 27 and will run through Friday, March 5.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 28.8 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
“Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder are a complex psychological condition that affects behavior, thoughts and attitudes related to food, eating and body image,” Aspirus said. “They are the second deadliest mental illnesses and can affect anyone of any age, race or gender.”
Aspirus said eating disorders are not always obvious, noting that those with the condition often remain secretive about their behavior, and many go years without people knowing.
“An eating disorder can develop gradually and you may first observe personality and behavior changes,” said Dr. Desire Christensen, Psychiatrist with Aspirus Behavioral Health in Stevens Point. “Due to their secretive nature, eating disorders are often hard to spot in the early stages.”
Common early warning signs include:
- Dramatic weight gain or loss
- Frequently talking about food, weight or body image
- Excessive exercising or use of measures to “offset” food intake
- Purging, restricting or compulsive eating
- Abuse of diet pills, diuretics or laxatives
- Denial of disordered eating despite concerns of those around them
- Isolating during mealtimes, eating in secret or hiding food
- Medical complications, such as amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), fainting, hair loss, osteoporosis, dental problems, heart problems or other serious symptoms due to nutritional deprivation
“Eating disorders seriously impact someone’s health and can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences, especially if left untreated,” Aspirus said.
Aspirus noted that discussing eating disorders can be difficult, “especially with someone you are close to.”
NEDA offers the following tips on how to talk to a loved one with an eating disorder:
- Set a private time and place to talk
- Use “I” statements
- Rehearse what you want to say
- Remove potential stigma
- Avoid overly simplistic solutions such as “just stop” or “just eat”
- Encourage them to seek professional help
- Be prepared for negative reactions
“Some eating disorder sufferers are glad that someone has noticed they are struggling,” said one Aspirus Behavioral Health Specialist. “Others respond differently. Some may become angry and hostile, while others may brush off your concerns or minimize potential dangers. Both of these responses are normal. Reiterate your concerns, let them know you care and leave the conversation open.”
Although it can be frustrating to see a loved one suffering and refusing to seek help, the NEDA reports that many individuals now in recovery from an eating disorder say the support of family and friends was crucial to them getting well, Aspirus said.
“With proper care, full recovery from eating disorders is very possible,” Aspirus stated. “The first step is to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider, who may refer you to a behavioral health specialist.”
To learn more about the behavioral health and counseling services available with Aspirus Behavioral Health, visit www.aspirus.org/mental-health-treatment-counseling.