The goal of National Eating Disorders Week, Feb. 25 to March 3, is to address myths and better understand eating disorders. Most people with an eating disorder are concerned about appearing overweight or physically unattractive. However, a person with an eating disorder can be underweight, normal or overweight.
Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and affect about 30 million people per year in the United States, according to the Mental Health First Aid curriculum. The median age for onset of eating disorders is between 18 and 20 years old. A high percentage of people with eating disorders have other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, mood and substance use disorders.
There are many warning signs that an eating disorder may be developing. A few of them are:
- Extreme dieting behaviors, such as fasting, obsessively counting calories and avoiding some food groups
- Evidence of binge eating
- Evidence of vomiting or laxative use (making trips to the bathroom after eating)
- Obsessive exercise patterns
- Avoidance of eating meals
- Behaviors focused on body shapes and weight (interest in weight loss websites, books and so forth)
- Social withdrawal or avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
Some physical warning signs include weight fluctuations, sensitivity to cold most of the time, changes in menstruation and fainting. Some psychological warning signs include preoccupation with food, sensitivity to comments or criticism, and extreme body dissatisfaction.
A few questions
The SCOFF Questionnaire developed in the United Kingdom in 1999 helps to detect eating disorders. For each “yes” answer, there is one point. A score of two or more indicates a likely eating disorder.
- Do you make yourself sick (induce vomiting) because you feel uncomfortable full?
- Do you worry that you have lost control over how much you eat?
- Have you recently lost more that 12 pounds in a three-month period?
- Do you think you are too fat, even though others say you are too thin?
- Would you say that food dominates your life?
These are a few of the warning signs and factors to be aware of in your circle of friends and family. There are self-help books and websites to assist those with eating disorders, but we encourage professional help for the best results.
As part of the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, look for activities to learn more. The Come as You Are campaign sponsored by NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) features interactive learning challenges and events on its website.
Be assured that good physical health and mental health go together at our metro Denver mental health centers. To learn more, visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton. Additionally, our website has a link to sign up for free Mental Health First Aid courses.