As part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, experts across Ohio have been spreading the word about the dangers of eating disorders and how they can threaten a person’s overall well-being.
Most women worry about how they look before they walk out the door each day, but for thousands of Ohio women, a distorted body image actually is a serious medical problem. Dr. Lori Mitan, director of the Eating Disorder Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, says these conditions are not a choice, but rather a mental illness often tied to other issues, such as depression or anxiety.
“One of the themes that runs through all of the eating disorders is this sense of fear or guilt around eating and body shape and body weight,” Mitan said. “Their body image is so tied to how they feel about their weight.”
Without early intervention, Mitan says, an eating disorder can have devastating and sometimes life-threatening consequences. She recommends those experiencing such feelings seek an evaluation by a primary-care physician or a school or community health agency.
Adolescence is the common age of onset for anorexia, and the young-adult years bring the most cases of bulimia. When looking for warning signs in friends or loved ones, Mitan says, first and foremost pay attention to what they say about themselves.
“Distaste about their own body shape; lots of negative comments out of their mouth about (how) they’re fat, they’re ugly, they’re worthless – these are red flags that we would want people to bring to attention.”
Congress recently approved the creation of the National Eating Disorders Awareness Caucus, in order to increase awareness and provide support through enhanced prevention, therapeutic advances and improved access to treatment.
Approximately 7 million women and 1 million men in the United States struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, experts say.