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national eating disorder awareness week

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Research shows that an estimated eight million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, with the majority being women. Of those eight million, men account for one million. Bulimia appears to be the most common disorder, with anorexia right behind it. While an eating disorder is characterized by many physical behaviors, it is considered a mental illness by the psychology community. Yet, of the many mental illnesses that exist, it has one of the highest mortality rates, due to the nature of the disease. Over half of Americans know someone with an eating disorder, and with it being National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we felt this was an appropriate time to discuss the signs that someone you know may have an eating disorder, and how you can be a support system.

While roughly 50 percent of Americans say they know someone with an eating disorder, keep in mind that only encompasses those who recognize the signs, or who have a friend or loved one who has confessed to having the illness. It’s very possible to know someone with a disorder and simply not realize that the issue exists. Individuals who suffer from eating disorders often hide their condition, so unless they want you to know what’s happening, you may not spot it. Of course, many people with eating disorders may want to open up about their condition but are afraid to start the conversation. Having a friend who initiates that dialogue can go a long way. To demonstrate just how powerful it is for those suffering from eating disorders to discuss their problem, studies show cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for bulimia. That requires the help of a mental health professional, but the study nods to the benefit of being open about these conditions. Maybe you have a friend whom you suspect may have an eating disorder, but before saying something, you’d like to be more sure. Here are some signs.

national eating disorder awareness week

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New and strict rules around eating

Individuals with eating disorders might develop strict rules surrounding eating and exercising, and might be unwilling to compromise on these. Perhaps a friend refuses to eat before or after a certain hour, and will not budge on this to accommodate your schedule even when you have a very good reason to need to push the meal just 15 minutes outside the friend’s comfort zone. In that case, she says she’ll just eat alone. She may have certain restaurants she will not go near, for reasons that seem vague or irrational. She might feel a compulsion to exercise a certain length of time each day, at specific times, and again will not compromise on this no matter what. Socializing with this friend means scheduling around these immovable new rules.

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