National Eating Disorders Association
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Understanding Eating Disorders

One of the most injurious facets of eating disorders is the stigma surrounding them. Despite a growing body of research confirming neurobiological and genetic causes of eating disorders, there are persisting misconceptions that these illnesses are lifestyles choices caused primarily by social or psychological factors. Such stigma contributes to the all-too-common picture the public paints of eating disorders: teenage white girl who engages in self-starvation in pursuit of the ever-elusive beauty ideal.

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In collaboration with the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative and special guest Chevese Turner, President, Founder and CEO of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), NEDA hosted the Beyond Hunger: Understanding, Treating & Coping with Binge Eating Disorder conference in honor of NEDAwareness Week 2016.

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While both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are associated with a litany of medical complications , with timely and successful treatment the vast majority of these complications do not leave permanent residual sequelae (conditions that are the result of a previous disease). 

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I took the screening  and it told me I could be at risk for an eating disorder...what do I do now?

First, congratulations for reaching out to the National Eating Disorders Association and finding the courage to take the screening. You’ve taken the first step to getting help! If your results show that you are at risk for an eating disorder, it means that you selected criteria that could be consistent with disordered eating behaviors and it’s time to get the help you deserve to overcome those thoughts and behaviors. 

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Truth #1: Many people with eating disorders look healthy, yet may be extremely ill.

Truth #2: Families are not to blame, and can be the patients’ and providers’ best allies in treatment.

Truth #3: An eating disorder diagnosis is a health crisis that disrupts personal and family functioning.

Truth #4: Eating disorders are not choices, but serious biologically influenced illnesses.

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When Dr. Theresa Larson was in the Marines, she began to suffer from an eating disorder. For fear of losing her job, she looked towards outside help that told her what she already knew; she could not open up about her disease. She continued to stay in the military, but when she realized she needed to get help, and opened up, she received backlash rather than help. Larson was questioned about her disease, and was unable to obtain help that understood her disease. She was discharged and was sent to doctors, but none of them specialized in eating disorders.

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Disordered eating and dangerous weight-loss behaviors have unfortunately become normalized in our culture. Dieting, “clean eating” and compulsive exercise are often precursors to full-blown eating disorders. This discussion will shed light on how our understanding of "health" has gotten so warped and what we can do to reclaim a more balanced perspective. Stacey Rosenfeld, Ph.D., CGP, @drstaceyla; Cristin Runfola, PhD, @crunfola; Jenni Schaefer, Author and NEDA Ambassador, @JenniSchaefer were featured in this important discussion.

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Anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder affect up to 5% of young women, are associated with high use of medical resources, but often go unrecognized in medical settings. Men with eating disorders are even more likely to elude detection. All physicians should be alert to signs and symptoms of these relatively common behavioral disorders. Most cases respond to specialist treatment, although rates of medical morbidity, functional impairment and mortality are high, especially for anorexia nervosa, which has the highest mortality of any psychiatric condition.

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Do you overspend and overeat? Deprive yourself of possessions as well as of meals?   If so, there may be a connection between how you spend money and what’s going on with food.  

Many behaviors with food and finances are strategies to cope with uncomfortable or intolerable thoughts, emotions and conflicts, including, but not limited to, the following:

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The person sitting next to you in class or in the cubicle across from you might be suffering from a severe eating disorder. How do I know? Because that person suffering was me.

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