Raising Awareness on Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that revolve around unhealthy relationships with food, body image, and weight. They encompass a range of conditions, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and others. 

According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that more than 70 million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders. The prevalence is increasing, particularly among adolescents and young adults. These statistics highlight the urgent need for awareness, prevention, and access to comprehensive treatment options.

Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not exclusive to women. Men also experience these conditions, although their experiences often go underreported and unrecognized. It is estimated that approximately one in three individuals with an eating disorder is male. The stigma surrounding eating disorders in men and societal pressure to conform to masculine ideals contribute to their underreporting. It is crucial to include men in the conversation surrounding eating disorders and ensure they receive the support and treatment they need.

Signs and Symptoms:

While each disorder may manifest differently, common signs include:

  • Drastic changes in weight, often accompanied by extreme dieting or excessive exercise.
  • Preoccupation with body weight, shape, and appearance.
  • Distorted body image or an intense fear of gaining weight.
  • Unusual eating behaviors, such as strict food rules, secretive eating, or bingeing and purging episodes.
  • Frequent visits to the bathroom after meals, often associated with purging behaviors.
  • Social withdrawal, avoidance of social events involving food, or wearing loose or baggy clothing to hide weight loss.

What to do:

If you suspect that someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, here are some tips on how to offer support:

  • Educate yourself: Learn about the different types of eating disorders, their symptoms, and the available resources for treatment and support.
  • Express concern: Approach the person with empathy and express your concerns about their well-being. Avoid judgment or criticism.
  • Encourage professional help: Suggest seeking guidance from a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, therapist, or eating disorder specialist.
  • Be a good listener: Offer a non-judgmental and supportive space for the individual to share their feelings and experiences.
  • Avoid reinforcing negative body image: Refrain from making comments about appearance, weight, or food choices that may contribute to their insecurities.
  • Encourage self-care: Promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle, emphasizing the importance of self-care, self-compassion, and seeking help when needed.

What to do:

If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder: 

  • Seek professional help: Reach out to a healthcare professional specializing in eating disorders or a dietitian, who can provide the necessary support and guidance. Therapy can help establish a balanced relationship with food, find ways to engage in healthy coping mechanisms, and challenge distorted thoughts. 
  • Build a support network: surround yourself with understanding and supportive individuals.
About The Author

Dr. Aurelie Comes

Aurélie is an experienced Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT) who trained and worked in the UK’s National Health Service. In addition to her CBT specialty, she also qualified as an Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Practitioner.Aurélie has worked extensively in the private and public sector with clients experiencing mild to severe difficulties (e.g. depression, anger management, substance misuse, sleep problems, life adjustments, individual relationship difficulties). Her areas of special interest include trauma and eating disorders.Aurélie also provides therapy with adolescents to help with adjusting to a third-culture kid lifestyle, school issues, bullying and transitioning to university.