This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week or NEDAwareness Week and the theme this year is “Everybody Knows Somebody” – meaning that everyone is aware of at least one person with an eating disorder. However, those least suspected of having eating disorders have been brought to light this week through two timely features.
The first feature appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, which covered the unsuspecting category of men with eating disorders. The segment revealed that men have a tougher time getting treatment and are often overlooked in studies when in fact they comprise 1/3 of the 30 million people in the US with eating disorders. Despite this, men are not always indicated in the evaluation criteria for eating disorders. For example, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s website, a main symptom of anorexia is when “menstrual periods cease” – obviously not applicable to men. Men also go undiagnosed by doctors who overlook other telltale signs of an eating disorder – hence the need for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week to raise public awareness about the prevalence of anorexia, EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) and bulimia in women and men.
The other feature on eating disorders appeared in Ebony Magazine this week and brought to light the prevalence of EDNOS in African American women. Erika Nicole Kendall, who is a recovering emotional eater, sheds light on the fact that eating disorders are mostly discussed in the limiting parameters of anorexia and bulimia as if they are the only disorders that have a grave impact. She asserts that EDNOS is not only more prevalent in mainstream society, but also in the black community – particularly binge eating and emotional eating defined as “the use of food for purposes unrelated to physical nourishment and nutrition.” Kendall stated that while studies showed that African American girls are 50 percent more likely to be bulimic than white girls, the overall discourse on binge eating in black communities was largely swept under the rug; “the inherent denial of the existence of a problem that might require actual psychiatric care in our community. We cannot continue to perpetuate the ideal that psychiatric care cannot and will not help us uncover the tools we need to overcome our battles. This mentality cannot persist.” Rather than casting off someone as “eating too much” she says we need to be real about binge eating and heal from it.
Many eating disorder treatment centers and addiction rehabs are rising to meet the needs of those (including men) who suffer from anorexia, bulimia and EDNOS to help them be real about it and heal as Kendall suggests. And with more awareness and features discussing these attention deserving topics, the addiction treatment community will respond with applicable eating disorder treatment programs to help.