National Eating Disorders Association
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Understanding Eating Disorders

Many people don’t realize that living as a disabled person can be especially difficult, not because of the disability itself, but because abled individuals discriminate against us. Although I often like to forget I have cerebral palsy and live life like any other person, abled people have tried to place limitations on me due to my disability.

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“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth.

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Substance abuse problems may begin before or during an eating disorder, or even after recovery. Those struggling with co-occurring substance use and disordered eating should speak with a trained professional who can understand, diagnose, and treat both substance use disorders and eating disorders.

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Although not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, awareness of orthorexia among the general public and within the eating disorder community is on the rise. The word “orthorexia” was coined in 1998 and means an obsession with proper or “healthful” eating. Although being aware of and concerned with the nutritional quality of the food you eat isn’t a problem in and of itself, people with orthorexia become so fixated on so-called “healthy eating” that they actually damage their own well-being.

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In a society so obsessed with health, when does striving to be “healthy” become dangerous? When does it turn into a problem? Many people are familiar with the more commonly known eating disorders - anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, but most people don’t know about another serious eating disorder: orthorexia nervosa. Orthorexia, while not yet an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, is a life-threatening problem that requires treatment.

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Eating disorders are surrounded by myths, stereotypes, and stigma, which can make talking about them feel like a challenge. One in 10 Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Yet despite their prevalence, those affected often experience deep feelings of isolation. Friends and loved ones can feel lost and unsure about how to help. 

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The chance for recovery increases the earlier an eating disorder is detected. Therefore, it is important to be aware of some of the warning signs of an eating disorder. 

An individual with an eating disorder generally won’t have all of these signs and symptoms at once, and warning signs and symptoms vary across eating disorders, so this isn’t intended as a checklist. Rather, it is intended as a general overview of the types of behaviors that may indicate an eating disorder. If you have any concerns about yourself or a loved one, please seek additional medical help.

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Traumatic events are events that cause psychological, physical and/or emotional pain or harm.  

Traumatic events, especially those involving violence between people, have been found to be significant risk factors for the development of a variety of psychiatric disorders, including eating disorders—particularly those involving bulimic symptoms, such as binge eating and purging. 

Stress, Trauma and Coping

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An eating disorder diagnosis can be challenging enough on its own, but many individuals also have other psychological issues that can accompany the eating disorder. 

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Dr. Lesley Williams is a certified eating disorder specialist, family medicine physician and positive body image advocate. She co-owns Liberation Center, an eating disorder treatment facility, in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Williams is dedicated to ensuring that all women and men that struggle with eating and body image issues receive the help that they need to overcome and live happy, healthy lives.

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