ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – February 20-26 is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. That’s nine percent of the U.S. population.
There area range of warning signs of an eating disorder such as skipping meals, isolation and change in diet to name a few.
“A more subtle symptom to look out for would be a sudden change in their food preference, like interest in becoming vegan or cutting out protein when that’s something common in your household,” PrairieCare Eating Disorder Specialist Erica Vance, M.D. said.
There are a number of misconceptions about eating disorders like eating disorders are all about vanity, you have to be “underweight” to have a serious eating disorder or eating disorders are all about control.
“It’s well out of their control. Just the same if somebody were to develop depression. That’s not within their control,” Dr. Vance said.
Social media may also contribute to social media. Instagram has thousands of filters that can completely change your appearance online.
“Especially younger patients, kind of more critical of their body image. Unfortunately, I don’t think filters and editing photos are something that’s going away any time soon, so I think this is something we’re all trying to navigate together,” Dr. Vance said.
While eating disorders are characterized as a mental illness, the symptoms have physical health consequences as well.
“Often there are effects on the heart muscle itself, on the heart conduction system, and often the heart rate is very slow. Many of these individuals feels palpitations or shortness of breath. They can make electrolyte disorders, so their potassium could be very low, and that can set them up for very serious heart rhythm abnormalities,” Mayo Clinic Preventive Cardiologist Sharonne Hayes M.D. said.
Like there are a range of symptoms of eating disorders, there are also a range of options for people to get the help they need.
“It doesn’t always mean going to a higher level of care, a residential or partial hospitalization; some people get help from an outpatient dietician, therapist, psychiatrist. The levels of care can kind of be all over the map, and it’s just important to get the help if you’re having these problems,” Dr. Vance said.
PrairieCare has a partial hospitalization program in Rochester called The Healthy Living and Eating Program for those struggling with eating disorders.
(800) 931-3327 is the National Eating Disorders hotline, another resource you can use if you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder.
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