The National Eating Disorders Association hopes to start a conversation on something that affects so many people with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
“30 million Americans continue to suffer from eating disorders and the mortality rate of eating disorders continue to be one of the highest of all the mental illnesses,” said Mary Watts, Gundersen Health eating disorder therapist.
Every 62 minutes someone dies from their eating disorder, according to the Eating Disorder Coalition.
Eating disorders don’t just affect one type of person either.
“Eating disorders don’t discriminate, so it doesn’t matter the age of the person, it doesn’t matter what race or ethnicity or religious background or gender identity,” Watts said.
Doctors say there are plenty of warning signs to be on the lookout for that someone with an eating disorder may be experiencing.
“Someone suddenly talking about their appearance and wanting a lot of reassurance about how they look or what their weight is,” said Watts.
Doctors also note that changes in personality, disappearing after meals, and finding wrappers in odd places are warning signs.
The creation of social media has also had an effect on eating disorders.
“What is that fueling when they are making those comparisons to the images they’re seeing on Instagram or Facebook?,” Watts said.
Doctors say that sometimes people who attempt to lose weight can develop an eating disorder if they see results from bad habits.
“You start getting positive feedback. ‘Oh my gosh, you look great. What are you doing and how did you do it?’ and some of those fairly benign comments can really fuel what turns out to be some really dangerous behaviors,” Watts said.
Treatment is different for every patient, but at Gundersen it always starts with being seen by a therapist, a physician, and a dietitian.
The average time of treatment can be anywhere from one to five years.