About 10 million men and 20 million women in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders are among the most deadly of any mental health disorder, second only to opioid overdose.
When most people hear the term “eating disorder,” they think of a malnourished young woman suffering from anorexia nervosa. While anorexia nervosa is indeed an eating disorder, there other eating disorders that are even more prevalent. These include bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), orthorexia, and compulsive exercising. For a complete list and more information on the different types, please go to this website.
Despite the stereotypes, eating disorders impact people of all genders, races, social classes and ages. People often do not know that they have an eating disorder, and they may not know to mention it to their doctor. Research indicates that less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight,” so it’s understandable that eating disorders often go undiagnosed.
It is important to be educated and know where to look for help, especially because one person dies from an eating disorder every 52 minutes. Unfortunately, only 30% of the estimated number of people who have an eating disorder will seek treatment. Financial barriers, stigma, misconceptions, and the lack of access to care are all considered factors in why such a small percentage seek help.
Common signs and symptoms of eating disorders
If you think you or a loved one could be suffering from an eating disorder, review this list of common symptoms or signs:
- Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
- Stomach cramps
- Menstrual irregularities
- Dizziness, especially upon standing
- Feeling cold all the time
- Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails
- Fine hair on body (lugo)
- Muscle weakness
- Poor wound healing
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, no sugar etc.)
- Appears uncomfortable eating around others
- Skipping meals or restricting food
- Withdrawal from usual friends and social settings
- Frequent dieting
- Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
- Extreme mood swings
- Secret recurrent episodes of binge eating
- Purge behavior (bathroom use after food consumption)
- Expresses need to “burn off calories” after meals
If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating, please seek out a medical professional who can help. Our Nourish Program was specifically designed to help patients with eating disorders. The Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who are part of the Nourish team will work in partnership with your physician, therapist, and other health care providers to get you the help you need.