National Eating Disorders Association
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Understanding Eating Disorders

As someone who attended a public high school, health education was a really valuable class to me. While some may have considered it a joke of a class or an “easy A,” tackling topics like substance abuse, domestic violence/abusive relationships, obesity, and mental illness are extremely relevant to teens today.

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August generally marks the start of school, back to hectic schedules and anticipation of what the new year might bring. To some this may bring about memories of triumphs; however, for others it could serve as a reminder of how far is left on their journey. 

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Yes, eating disorder treatment involves all the wonderful things that are delicately spelled out in pastel pamphlets. Yes, there can be yoga mats and Rumi and more gentle nodding than the normal neck could take. 

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One of the most common questions I’ve received as both a clinician and an eating disorder survivor is how to know whether someone truly has an eating disorder. In this day and age, when food fads and diets come and go quickly and people so regularly, casually discuss the manner in which they “eat their feelings” as a means of coping, it can be hard to discern when one’s eating practices morph from disordered eating into an eating disorder.

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Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common, but least understood, eating disorder in the United States. Intuitive eating and Health at Every Size® may be helpful tools for those in recovery, but public understanding of these concepts is limited. 

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This blog post was sponsored by Monte Nido (Clementine).

I can recall first wanting to become a physician when my mother would take me to the pediatrician’s office when I was feeling sick as a child. Oftentimes, my doctor would sit next to me and calmly explain what he felt was going on and all the options for treatment that were available. 

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When people hear that I have an eating disorder, they usually don’t know what to say. It’s awkward on both ends, I’m sure. I sometimes feel the need to apologize for making the other person uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to feel that way. When ED patients share this detail of their life with another person, they usually aren’t expecting sympathy or compliments, so you do not have to feel obliged to give them.

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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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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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