National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: spread the word, save a life

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Eating disorders affect at least 30 million people in the U.S. and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. But it can sometimes be difficult to identify an eating disorder because symptoms do not all present the same way, and those who are struggling could be any body type, age, gender, orientation, or ethnicity.

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorders are some of the most common forms of this illness, but there are other types of disordered eating. Obsession with food, body weight, and shape are signals of an eating disorder, and many present alongside other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Like any mental health disorder, eating disorders are treatable and most people who suffer with one recover - but identification and early intervention are key to recovering before reaching a point of crisis.

“Early detection is very important for successful treatment, so education and access to treatment are key to good results,” said Dr. Doug Jacobs, founder of Screening for Mental Health.

During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, February 26 - March 4, we’re encouraging all our partners to share their screenings with their communities so that anyone can take a free anonymous screening and be connected with support for eating disorders.

More than 500 colleges that partner with Screening for Mental Health are making a particular effort to connect their communities with eating disorder screenings this National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, since eating disorder frequently begin in young adulthood.

Data from one college over a 13-year period shows total eating disorders increased from 23 to 32 percent among females and from 7.9 to 25 percent among males. Other studies show that 35 percent of “normal” dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20–25 percent progress to partial or full–syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995).

“Colleges can play an important role in helping young adults recognize and get help for eating disorders,” Jacobs said.

Screening for Mental Health also provides free anonymous general online screenings for eating disorders and many other mental health disorders. While these screens are not diagnostic, they can let you know whether you or your loved one are at risk and should seek professional help. Our screening site also provides an abundance of educational materials on mental health topics.

During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, you can help spread the word about eating disorders, and how those who may be struggling can find help. We’ve created graphics you can share on Twitter and Facebook, as well as prewritten social media posts, to direct people to the screenings that will give them insight into their mental health and connect them to local resources. 

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