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Know the top signs of eating disorders

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This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which a person is so preoccupied with food and weight that they can often focus on little else. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

Eating disorders can cause serious physical problems and, at their most severe, can even be life-threatening. Most people with eating disorders are females, but males can also have eating disorders. An exception is binge-eating disorder, which appears to affect almost as many males as females.

In the U.S. alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 24 – March 2), Eating Recovery Center of California encourages everyone to be aware of signs and symptoms of a potential eating disorder in friends and loved ones, and to seek professional help if needed.

Here are a few signs of an eating disorder to be aware of:

1. Dramatic weight loss

2. Change in behaviors around food

3. Depression and/or anxiety symptoms

4. Finding laxatives, diet pills or diuretics

5. Noticing a pattern of avoiding food

6. Noticing a pattern of going to the bathroom after a meal

7. Fatigue or dizziness

8. Increased agitation or fighting about meals

9. Excessive or compulsive exercise

10. Sneaking or hoarding food

Girls are more than two and a half times as likely as boys to have an eating disorder. An estimated 2.7 percent for those suffering from an eating disorder are 13 to 17 year olds. An estimated 90% + are adolescent and young women. In fact anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness -- up to 20%.

While eating disorders often coexist with other mental health disorders, eating disorders often go undiagnosed and untreated. A low number of sufferers obtain treatment for the eating disorder.

Other Facts about Eating Disorders

• Doubled since 1960s

• Increasing in younger age groups, as young as 7 years

• Occurring increasingly in diverse ethnic and sociocultural groups

• 40-60% of high school girls diet

• 13% of high school girls purge

• 30-40% of junior high girls worry about weight

• 40% of 9-year-old girls have dieted

• 5-year-old girls are concerned about diet

Eating disorders are complex, life-interrupting illnesses. Individuals struggling with eating disorders are intelligent, genuine and passionate, and have limitless potential. There is hope for lasting recovery with comprehensive treatment from compassionate experts.

Treatment can work with early detection and intervention. Treatment must be as complex as the illness and include attention to nutritional, medical and psychiatric components as well as psychotherapy for the patient and family.

Rates of Recovery are about 1/3 recover after initial episode. 1/3 fluctuate with recovery and relapse. 1/3 suffer chronic deterioration. If patients do not receive adequate treatment then multiple re-hospitalizations are common.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa physical damage can include heart muscle shrinkage, slow and irregular heartbeat, heart failure, amenorrhea, kidney stones and kidney failure, lanugo (development of excessive fine body hair on face, arms and legs), muscle atrophy, delayed gastric emptying, bowel irritation, constipation osteoporosis, and more.

Whole families are affected by eating disorders, and loved ones deserve treatment, education and support at every stage of the recovery process.

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