by Priscilla Jadallah
I want to introduce a very important week: February 23-March 1 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This week is important for many reasons, yet is rarely acknowledged in our culture. Eating disorders are commonly looked down upon, and I feel a big reason is because they are misunderstood. Eating disorders are an ever-growing epidemic.
Many are not aware of how many around them could be suffering from this disease. Mothers, Grandmothers, Sisters, Daughters, Brothers, Sons, Grandfathers and Dads may be suffering from an eating disorder. It is a hidden secret that is often guarded, protected, and veiled with fears of judgment and shame. It is time to break down the walls. It is time to empower and fight for those suffering from an eating disorder, as well as educate those who are unsure of how severe of an issue this may be.
Over 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder (anad.org). Eating disorders, specifically Anorexia, are the number one... the NUMBER ONE killer of all mental disorders. NUMBER ONE!!!
Eating disorders can be difficult to understand, but they affect more people than we realize. Dialogues must be started.
Media stereotypes and the messages we send to the youth of America must be challenged. This growing epidemic will only continue to get worse, unless we shine a spotlight on this issue and increase our awareness Young children are not immune to this disease. I have seen patients who have stated that their eating disorders started as young as the age of 5. How can children that young learn to hate their bodies? How do they learn to harm themselves in such a physical way to cope with internal pain? Information about this issue must spread; we cannot stay silent any longer. It is time to speak up, to learn, grow, and face this problem. For someone suffering from an eating disorder, it may feel like being locked in a silent prison that slowly kills.
By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference.
There are many misconceptions about eating disorders and people who have or are currently struggling with one. I've heard time and time again, “Why can't the behavior just be stopped?”, as if it were as easy as turning an on switch off. What many people don't know is that an eating disorder is a disease, and also an addiction. Eating disorders are more than just a behavior; it is a mindset and a thought process that takes over many aspects of a person's life. There is more eating disorders than an obsession with weight and body image; there are factors that contribute to the extreme mindset and feelings that come with an eating disorder. If we can better understand the mindset and find ways to help then maybe one day the recovery rate of won't be as low as it is now.
The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses - not choices - and it's important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder. We have come far in the last two decades but eating disorders research continues to be under-funded, insurance coverage for treatment is inadequate, and societal pressures to be thin or look a certain way remain rampant. Some doctors fail to recognize the signs or offer the help that many people suffering from an eating disorder need.
Education is vital.
We need acceptance, we need love, and we need hope.
Most of all, those who suffer from an eating disorder need support. The more we can make them feel safe to share their stories and feel understood, the more we can continue to combat for and help those in need. I have hope that one day we will live in a society where our shape and weight are not what define us. I have hope that one day those suffering will continue to find the courage and strength within themselves to fight and know it'll be ok; that recovery is possible and that they have a voice we want to hear.
This is a call to action.
Please do your part and increase awareness with eating disorders. You can visit nationaleatingdisorders.org. The smallest things make the largest difference. Thank you.
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Priscilla Jadallah, Registered MFT Intern
Supervised by Kristen Ober, MFT MFC47512
LinkedIn: Priscilla Jadallah
YouTube: The Awesome Show
Therapy Cable: Behind The Mask
Priscilla is an awesome advocate for eating disorder awareness and treatment. She embodies the lifestyle of healthy choices, understanding that it is not always an easy decision to make. She is currently interning in private practice, co-hosting a psychology-based web series, The Awesome Show, with Mahastee Mehdizadeh, MFT.