National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Juliette Gaggini, Senior Writer

The week of February 21 to February 27 marks the annual National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week. As stated on NEDA’s website, the campaign runs to “educate the public about the realities of eating disorders and to provide hope, support and visibility to individuals and families affected by eating disorders.” 

An eating disorder is diagnosed as having sustained unhealthy and unmanageable eating habits. Eating disorders are both mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of any age and gender. Furthermore, eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, following behind the leading cause of mortality, opioid addiction. The conversations around eating disorders are often underplayed and normalized in today’s society.  

According to the NEDA website, eating disorders affect nine percent of the population worldwide, and 28.8 million Americans are said to struggle with eating disorders at some point in their lives. Eating disorders do not present themselves in the same manner for everyone. Less than six percent of people diagnosed with an eating disorder are medically diagnosed as “underweight.” 

Throughout the pandemic, food anxiety and food-related triggers have risen across the country, regardless of having a history of an eating disorder. The stigmatization of eating disorders and how people assume they will present are a big issue with diagnosing and addressing eating disorders. There are numerous types of eating disorders, but the two most common are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. 

Recent statistics surrounding eating disorders evoke further concern, particularly on college campuses. People ranging in age from 15-24 who suffer from anorexia have 10 times the risk of dying compared to others their age. Males are at an even higher risk of mortality as they are often diagnosed later than females or not at all due to the stigmatization of eating disorders and the assumption that men generally do not have them. 

Along with the generally overwhelmingly high rates of eating disorders and disordered eating statistics on college campuses, athletes on these campuses also face a high risk of developing these issues. According to NEDA, one third of Division 1 NCAA female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms which put them at risk of anorexia nervosa. While this is a huge amount of women at risk, male athletes, especially in sports that emphasize their weight and appearance, are also at great risk.   

If eating disorders are so prevalent, especially in young adults, why then is the conversation still so stigmatized? Oftentimes, eating disorders are misconceived as a lifestyle choice as opposed to a mental health issue or a physical illness. In order to break this stigma, we must encourage open dialogue and education on the topic. Breaking the stigma around mental health issues and eating disorders cannot be done overnight. However, positive change can be made over time by moving the greater conversation in a new more informed and promising direction. 

Though many of the statistics surrounding eating disorders are grim and upsetting, part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to educate people on what they are and how to overcome them or help others overcome them. The NEDA website includes tabs detailing warning signs, treatment plans and prevention efforts.  

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week encourages open discussions and tools for treatment and prevention. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, there are resources on campus, such as Student Health and the Counseling & Student Development Center, as well as on the NEDA website. The Counseling & Student Development Center currently offers mental health services by video and in-person appointments and can be reached at (570-577-1604), or at their crisis service line, 570-577-1604. 

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