Categories
Body Dysmorphia

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By Meghaa Ravichandran

February’s most celebrated holiday, Valentine’s Day, is (now) a heartfelt honoring of love as couples exchange gifts mainly centered around chocolates and flowers. Just one week after Valentine’s Day, however, is a week dedicated to National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA), taking place from February 21 – February 27, 2022. The official campaign sloga, See the Change, Be the Change, signifies the era of activism and awareness that is changing the public’s perception on eating disorders as well as accessibility to helpful resources for those with eating disorders. 

Basic Information:

Eating disorders are a serious mental illness that affect a person’s internal relationship with food and body image, often leading to serious effects such as unhealthy weight loss/gain and intrusive thoughts. These disorders can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but researchers have found that eating disorders more commonly impact teenagers and young adults. On average, almost 3 years pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. 

Types of Disorders:

There are a multitude of eating disorder classifications, but here are three common types: 

Anorexia Nervosa (AN): Characterized by unhealthy weight loss and distorted body image, people with anorexia restrict their intake of food, often not noticeable at first glance as one does not need to be underweight to be struggling. Both thinner and plus-sized individuals can be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, which is classified with two subtypes: restrictive and binge-purge. AN can be fatal as suicide is the second leading cause of death for people diagnosed with AN. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Restriction of energy intake
    • Intense fear of gaining weight even though underweight
    • Disturbance in the way one’s body weight/shape is perceived 
  • Symptoms: Dramatic weight loss, developing food rituals, denying feeling hungry, limited social spontaneity, concerned about eating in public, sleep problems, dry skin, muscle weakness, etc…

Bulimia Nervosa (BN): Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a cycle of binging followed by compensatory behaviors such as forced vomiting and fasting. Individuals diagnosed with this disorder can be any weight. Recurrent binge-and-purge cycles affect the entire digestive system, leading to chemical imbalances in the body that affect other organ functions, which can cause fatal consequences such as cardiac arrest. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria: 
    • Recurrent episodes of binge-eating
    • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain
    • Episodes and behavior occur at least once a week for three months
    • Self-evaluation influenced by body shape/weight
  • Symptoms: skips meals or takes small portions of food at regular meals, disappears after eating often, drinks excessive amounts of water, teeth are discolored, self-injury, calluses on back of hands from self-induced vomiting, unusual swelling in cheeks, etc…

Binge Eating Disorder (BED): One of the most common eating disorders in the U.S. and one of the newest eating disorders formally recognized in the DSM-5, BED is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, a feeling of loss of control, and not regular use of unhealthy compensatory measures. Unlike BN, BED is not followed by compensatory measures so individuals with this disorder are often overweight. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
    • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present
    • Occurs at least once a week for 3 months
    • Not associated with recurrent use of compensatory behaviors
  • Symptoms: frequent diets, having secret recurring episodes of binge eating, disruption in normal eating behaviors, feelings of disgust/depression/guilt after overeating, eating alone out of embarrassment, stomach cramps, difficulties concentrating, etc… 

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): Another new diagnosis recognized by the DSM-5, AFRID is similar to anorexia as individuals who experience both limit their intake of food. However, those diagnosed with AFRID do not feel distress regarding their body’s appearance (body dysmorphia). AFRID can stall the growth and weight development of children and results in psychological problems as well. Children with a co-occurring anxiety disorder, habits of picky eating, and diagnosis of autism/ADHD are more likely to develop AFRID. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Eating/feed disturbance result in one of four effects
    • Does not occur exclusively during course of anorexia/bulimia
    • Not attributable to concurrent medical condition
    • Not better explained by lack of available food/ cultural practice
  • Symptoms: dramatic weight loss, only eat certain textures of food, fears of choking/vomiting, consistent/vague gastrointestinal issues around mealtime, limited range of preferred food becoming narrower, menstrual irregularities, muscle weakness, impaired immune functioning etc… 

Other eating disorders include Pica, Rumination Disorder, Laxative Abuse, Orthorexia, and more. 

Resources: 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, contact the Eating Disorders Helpline at 1(888)-375-7767 for treatment referrals and support/encouragement. Eating Disorder Hope has also compiled a list of websites available for those struggling with certain eating disorders both based in and out of the U.S. 

If you would like to raise awareness and join the fight against eating disorders, you can take action on the official NEDA website where you can share your story, register for a spring 2022 NEDA walk, represent NEDA on your college campus, volunteer as a landmark photograph, and plan a NEDAwareness Week Event.  


Works Cited: 

“Eating Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders. 

“Information by Eating Disorder.” National Eating Disorders Association, 21 Feb. 2018, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-eating-disorder. 

“Nedawareness Week.” National Eating Disorders Association, 19 Feb. 2022, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-involved/nedawareness.