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Posts Tagged ‘National Eating Disorders Awareness Month’

February is a month of much emotion among eating disorder sufferers, activists, professionals, and the like. It’s a month dedicated to raising awareness about these life-threatening disorders in an effort to save the lives of millions across the world.

My focus this month is “I will help others survive.” As many of you may recall, I lost my best friend to anorexia in November and I vow to do what I can to limit the loss of other precious souls such as hers.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (2005), more Americans suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating, than from Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, NEDA reports 10 million people in the U.S. battle eating disorders, compared to four million fighting Alzheimers. Yet, research dollars set aside for eating disorders is 75-percent less than that for Alzheimer’s.

NEDA offers the following chilling statistics on their website regarding these research dollars:

In the year 2005, the National Institutes of Health funded the following disorders accordingly:

Illness                              Prevalence               Research Funds

Eating disorders:              10 million                   $12,000,000 (Anorexia Only)

Alzheimer’s disease:         4.5 million                  $647,000,000

Schizophrenia:                  2.2 million                  $350,000,000

Perhaps this is because some consider eating disorders a choice illness that individuals can “snap out of” at any time. Or maybe it’s because not enough awareness about the truth of these disorders has been raised.  I can tell you that while individuals can certainly overcome eating disorders, the road to and through recovery is one that is physically and emotionally taxing. It can take as many as seven years to solidify recovery, although for some it can take much less or much more time. There are several factors to be considered on an individual basis.

Eating disorders are not, I repeat, ARE NOT, based on desire to lose weight. Ineffective eating behaviors are a symptom of a bigger problem and are reported to most often include issues with control. Whether a man or woman feels pressured to succeed, is struggling to cope with past abuse, has lived their life feeling overlooked and just wants to be loved…whatever the reason, once an eating disorder creeps into a person’s life, it takes root very quickly.

If someone struggling with an eating disorder becomes aware that their disorder is dangerous and is willing to seek help, there are numerous resources available. In some cases, individuals can become unable to make treatment decisions on their own, and family members are forced to make these decisions for them. It’s recommended that sufferers work with an individual therapist, a medical doctor, a nutritionist, and a psychiatrist. If outpatient therapy is not enough, or if medical complications are compromising the individual’s ability to function, residential or inpatient treatment is suggested. Sadly, however, many individuals cannot afford such intensive treatment, which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a 60-day stay – with or without insurance. Outpatient services can be just as costly over time.

It’s imperative that those of in recovery and those of us in the helping professions make known the dangers of eating disorders, as well as the treatment options available. I can’t tell you how many professionals I’ve come across who have very little knowledge about these illnesses and I hope that someday we will see a drastic increase in the number of practitioners who can help the millions who so desperately need it.

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder of any kind, please visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information. NEDA offers resources and links that can put you in touch with treatment centers and treatment professionals. Psychology Today is also a wonderful resource for finding a therapist. Once on their site, you can type in your zip code and search the listings for professionals in your area who specialize in eating disorders. If you’re in the Cincinnati area and in need of help, please visit Eating Recovery Center of Ohio to contact an admissions coordinator.

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