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Can CBD Help With Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are severe conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact health, emotions, and the ability to function in critical areas of life. 

Three of the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED), and bulimia nervosa.

Most eating disorders involve too much focus on weight, body shape, and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors. These behaviors can significantly impact the body’s ability to obtain appropriate nutrition. 

Eating disorders can damage the heart, digestive system, bones, and teeth and mouth, and lead to other diseases (1).

Anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are just a few additional mental health diagnoses that frequently co-occur with eating disorders.

A study of more than 2,400 individuals hospitalized for an eating disorder found that 94% of the participants had a coexisting mood disorder (2).

According to The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), recent research has found that 32-39% of individuals with anorexia, 33% of those with BED, and 36-50% of those with bulimia also have depression. 

Moreover, 48-51% of individuals with anorexia and 55-65% of those with BED are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. As much as 81% of those with bulimia also have an anxiety disorder (3).

How CBD Can Help With Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by weight loss, difficulty maintaining appropriate body weight, and a distorted body image (4).

In anorexia’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally, resulting in serious medical consequences.

CBD may help improve mood associated with anorexia by reducing anxiety. Published in CNS and Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets, a study showed that CBD had therapeutic uses as an anti-anxiety-like and antidepressant-like compound (5). 

Researchers of a 2018 study published in the Frontiers in Immunology Journal, also obtained similar results, demonstrating CBD as a potential remedy to depression (6). 

Findings in a study support theories that brain networks regulating appetite are disrupted by chronic anxiety or stress in a manner that could promote eating disorders or obesity (7).

Thus, reducing stress levels may help improve mood and encourage healthy eating.

How CBD Can Help With Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by repetitive episodes of consuming large quantities of food too fast and to the point of discomfort. 

BED also brings about a feeling of a loss of control during the binge. Two out of three individuals with BED are labeled clinically obese (8).

Individuals with BED often eat alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much they are eating. Then, they feel disgusted with themselves, depressed, or very guilty afterward. 

CBD may help reduce cravings by regulating the body’s reward system so that the cravings are not that severe (9).

CBD, through the actions of the endocannabinoid system, also impacts hormones that regulate appetite.

In a 2008 study, which was published in the PLOS One Journal, researchers investigated the interaction between ghrelin and the cannabinoid systems on the mechanisms underlying appetite regulation (10). 

The researchers found that CBD blocks a receptor in the brain of mice so that the neurotransmitter ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite, is unable to act.

They also found that the effects of ghrelin require an increased release of endocannabinoids to stimulate the appetite.

A 2001 animal study published in Nature Journal has shown that CBD could increase the levels of leptin in the brain (11). 

Leptin is the hormone that makes an individual feel full or satiated. Taking CBD at the end of an eating period may help curb cravings.

A 2016 study, conducted by researchers from the Department of Biotechnology at Daegu University in Korea, found that CBD might have some impact on turning white fat to brown fat, a process called ‘fat browning’ that purportedly promotes a healthier metabolism (12). 

As the ECS also plays a vital role in insulin regulation, the added boost from CBD might support this action.

When insulin transports glucose to the cells, the mitochondria (the cells’ energy factories) transform it into energy. However, when insulin resistance sets in, the mitochondria experience dysfunction.

In 2016, through a lab study that examined the impact of CBD on the metabolic function of fat cells, researchers noted an improvement in mitochondrial function with the application of CBD (13). 

According to the researchers, CBD may be explored as a potentially promising therapeutic agent for the prevention of obesity.

How CBD Can Help With Bulimia Nervosa 

Bulimia nervosa is a severe and potentially life-threatening eating disorder that involves a cycle of bingeing and purging behaviors, like self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating (14).

In the same way that CBD may help those with BED, CBD may help individuals with bulimia not to binge.

Individuals with BED always worry or complain about being fat as they have a distorted, excessively negative body image of themselves.

CBD may help individuals with bulimia improve their mood by reducing their anxiety levels. Less worrying may encourage them to eat healthily.

Conclusion

The human body is usually resilient at coping with the stress of eating disorders. Laboratory tests can appear perfect even as someone is at high risk of death. 

CBD has been shown to help with eating disorders by reducing anxiety and depression and through its impact on the hormones that regulate mood and appetite.

However, studies on CBD and eating disorders are limited, and the long-term effects of CBD remain unknown.

Thus, before using CBD to help with eating disorders, its symptoms, or related medical conditions, consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use for advice. 


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2018, Feb 22). Eating disorders. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20353603.
  2. NEDA. Anxiety, Depression, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anxiety-depression-obsessive-compulsive-disorder.
  3. NEDA. op.cit.
  4. NEDA. Anorexia Nervosa. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia.
  5. de Mello A et al. “Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis sativa”, CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets (2014) 13: 953. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871527313666140612114838.
  6. Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Front Immunol. 2018;9:2009. Published 2018 Sep 21. DOI:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009.
  7. Hardaway JA, Crowley NA, Bulik CM, Kash TL. Integrated circuits and molecular components for stress and feeding: implications for eating disorders. Genes Brain Behav. 2015;14(1):85–97.
  8. NEDA. Binge Eating Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed.
  9. Prud’homme M, Cata R, Jutras-Aswad D. Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Subst Abuse. 2015;9:33–38. Published 2015 May 21. DOI:10.4137/SART.S25081.
  10. Kola B, Farkas I, Christ-Crain M, Wittmann G, Lolli F, Amin F, et al. (2008) The Orexigenic Effect of Ghrelin Is Mediated through Central Activation of the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. PLoS ONE 3(3): e1797. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0001797.
  11. Di Marzo, V., Goparaju, […], and Kunos G. Leptin-regulated endocannabinoids are involved in maintaining food intake. Nature 410, 822–825 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35071088.
  12. Parray, H.A., Yun, J.W. Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Mol Cell Biochem 416, 131–139 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11010-016-2702-5.
  13. ibid.
  14. NEDA. Bulimia nervosa. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bulimia.

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Changing the Conversation About Eating Disorders

By Sara Moss

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Sara_MI had the amazing opportunity to be a 2014 Active Minds Emerging Scholar. Through the Emerging Scholars Fellowship, Active Minds is changing the conversation about mental health by supporting independent research and creative projects by young people.

 

With the support of the fellowship and the guidance of my mentor, Dr. Jennifer Webb, I undertook a qualitative research project looking at recovery from Eating Disorders (EDs). More specifically, I looked at how ED survivors define “recovery” and at the possibility of growth through the recovery process.

 

To summarize a year-long 100+ page project into three bullet points:

 

I interviewed 10 women who have recovered from EDs.

My participants reported living full, rich, meaningful lives, which are not negatively impacted by the illness. This finding starkly contrasts the picture often painted in the ED community; rather than the disorder being experienced as a life-long struggle, the participants described their recovery journeys as empowering and resulting in transformative growth.

These findings suggest that people who have recovered from mental illness (in this case EDs) can experience growth similar to people who have recovered from other defining life experiences like cancer, a military deployment, or a natural disaster. This growth, called Posttraumatic Growth (or PTG), involves overcoming highly stressful life events and moving above and beyond a prior state of functioning and overall engagement in life.

Over the past year, recovered individuals, patients, families, researchers, and clinicians have reached out to discuss my research. We talked about how emphasis on poor prognoses may promote hopelessness among those who are struggling, in turn contributing to negative outcomes.

 

Many of the women I interviewed reported feeling hopeless and expressed wanting more information about recovery while in treatment. I believe we need to broaden the conversation about Eating Disorders: in order to facilitate recovery, we need to figure out how to talk about it in an empowering way.

 

The Active Minds Emerging Scholars Fellowship got me thinking about the importance of dissemination and magnifying the impact of research by sharing the work. With the support of my mentor, I have submitted abstracts to several conferences. This April I will be presenting at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in Boston and sharing my findings with professionals from all over the world.

 

In addition to influencing professionals, my research is reaching people currently affected by EDs (patients and families). I was extremely excited when an international Eating Disorders research team at the King’s College Institute of Psychiatry in London expressed interest in using portions of my interviews in a new clinical trial.

 

More specifically, with permission from my participants, they used my interview recordings to create inspirational podcasts for patients in a new treatment study! I am proud of the ways that my undergraduate research is already impacting professionals and consumers in the field. I look forward to continuing to find ways to reach people working towards recovery.

 

I could not have made it this far without the support of Active Minds. I have developed skills, insights, and relationships that are opening doors to other opportunities (manuscript preparation, potential collaboration on a book, the chance to speak with caregivers of people with EDs).

 

I want to thank everyone for continued support of the Active Minds Emerging Scholars Fellowship and the research it supports. I am grateful for how it is helping me to change the conversation about eating disorders.

 

Together, we are truly changing the conversation about mental health.

 

 Date December 22, 2014

 Author Sara Moss

 Tags eating disorders, Emerging Scholars Fellowship, recovery

 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: A Letter to My Best Friend’s Professor

By Juliette Virzi

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This post was originally published in The Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper.

 

Dear My Best Friend’s Professor,

 

I wanted to start off by letting you know that I think you are amazing. I don’t know the extent of what you do here at UCLA, but I do know that in order to have reached your esteemed position at this university, you have done incredible research and have played a huge part in shaping the minds of tomorrow. For these things, I thank you.

 

I’m writing to you because I didn’t feel I could adequately express my concerns on the quarterly evaluation form. As you know, your student (my best friend) has been in treatment for her mental health-related difficulties. And as you are well aware, this has taken a toll on her class performance.

 

My best friend was diagnosed with anorexia this quarter. Her condition steadily worsened. Anorexia was killing her. She should have been hospitalized on the spot.

 

Through steady support and love, I pushed her to pursue an intensive partial hospitalization treatment program. I wanted to talk to you about what this looks like practically, because, as indicated by your responses to her, I am led to believe you don’t fully know what treatment for her mental illness looks like.

 

My best friend’s treatment is three days a week, from 8:15 in the morning to 3:15 in the afternoon, and for those seven hours she is asked to confront her greatest fears. She is asked to consume food, something her anorexia screams at her for doing. She is asked to gain back weight that her anorexia stole from her, convincing her of the lie that without the weight maybe she could someday be worthy of love. She is asked to engage fully in the program – mentally, physically and emotionally – when all she wants to do is run out the door and never look back.

 

When you told her to work harder, she heard you say she wasn’t good enough.

 

When you asked her to drop your class, she heard you say she was a failure.

 

When you brought in her department counselor to convince her again to drop your class, she heard you say she doesn’t deserve to be at UCLA at all.

 

I encourage you to consider that maybe being enrolled in your class is the only thing in her life that makes her feel normal.

 

Professor, you aren’t the only educator at this school that has said things like this to students struggling with mental illness. I’ve had friends that, in the midst of anxiety attacks, have been told by their professors to sit back down and finish their tests. I’ve heard professors mock mental illness, misuse the words “depressed,” “bipolar” and “psychotic,” and, without realizing it, promote stigma and isolate students with mental health difficulties.

 

I don’t believe any of these professors intended to hurt their students. I believe these reactions and statements speak more to the culture of stigma than they do of the professors themselves. That being said, even though these professors may not have intended harm, the reality is, they have harmed.

 

I challenge you and your fellow educators not to make a student’s mental health difficulties their problem, but instead to recognize that cultural stigma surrounding mental illness is our problem, and it is vital that we take steps to change this paradigm. As a professor, you are in the unique position to do this, starting with the way you treat students like my best friend.

 

Professor, my best friend is smart, driven and capable. Every single day she walks into the hospital, she has to put aside her anxieties and trust in the hope that this grueling treatment program will afford her some freedom from this debilitating affliction.

 

I urge you to consider that this is not just about her class performance, this is about her life and value as a human being. I ask that instead of pouring your energy into kicking her out of the class, pour it into supporting her in the best way you can by offering extensions to her when things get particularly hard, checking in on her feelings and just understanding that she is a human being before she is a student.

 

Help me celebrate her for fighting this illness. Help me celebrate her for fighting for her education despite this struggle. Help me celebrate the fact that she is still here with us.

 

The way you and I respond to her in this critical time affects the way she will continue to seek treatment for the rest of her life. I urge you to understand and take this responsibility seriously, because it truly is a matter of life and death for her and for so many students.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your Student’s Best Friend

 

 Date February 23, 2016

 Author Juliette Virzi

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Bad Body Image ≠ Eating Disorder

By Maggie Bertram

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EDAW_2016_Banner_Image

 

For several years now, I have helped college students plan Eating Disorders Awareness Week events. In honor of this year’s EDAW, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned.

 

Almost every campus EDAW program is about body image.

Here’s why that sucks.

 

Poor body image alone doesn’t cause eating disorders. If it did, then the prevalence of eating disorders would be two or three times what it is. Now, sure, for many who struggle with anorexia and some who struggle with bulimia, body image is a part of the illness. But even then, it is rarely a cause.

 

Plus, when we focus almost exclusively on body image, we exclude so many people who are struggling because the issue doesn’t resonate for them. They think to themselves, “that’s not why this is happening!” and they disengage.

 

Finally, focusing on body image minimizes the range of eating disorders that exist and their complexity. Eating disorders are not diets run amok. The are the most persistent and deadly mental illnesses. They’re about a lot more than comparing oneself against airbrushed bodies in magazines, and everyone’s experience is different. As someone who has personally struggled with anorexia in the past, I will never be able to completely understand someone else’s struggle with anorexia—let alone bulimia or binge eating disorder.

 

Many other EDAW programs are about nutrition.

 

Here’s why that sucks.

 

The kinds of conversations we often see about nutrition during EDAW perpetuate the assumption that if a person could just learn to eat right they wouldn’t have an eating disorder. Sending that kind of message perpetuates misunderstanding, minimizes the complexity and pain of eating disorders, and serves to further alienate folks who most desperately need to find a way to connect.

 

Besides, people with eating disorders are often hyperaware of food intake and nutritional principles–often to a detrimental degree. So, how about we ease up on that point?

 

Panel Discussions Are the Best

As I mentioned before, everyone’s eating disorder experience is different. A well-crafted, safe, empowering panel discussion is by far the best way to go for EDAW programming. Here are a few things to keep in mind, though.

 

Shoot for diversity: eating disorders don’t discriminate based on age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or any other factor. If you can find a diverse group of volunteers to share their stories on your panel, that’s best.

Prepare your panelists: it’s important to work with panelists in advance so that they feel comfortable, are reassured that they don’t need to exceed their comfort level, and that there are resources available in case they find the process triggering. You’ll also want to coach them in how not to be triggers for their audience members. When talking about eating disorders, it’s not good to share specific weights, calorie intakes, exercise details, or any other specific methods for perpetuating and hiding their disorder. You can find more information on safety in the EDAW Action Kit at ActiveMinds.org/EDAW.

Support your audience: make sure you have counseling center representatives available at the event in case an audience member is triggered or is interested in seeking help as soon as possible.

Follow up: make sure to follow up with chapter members and panelists to ensure that their event experience was good and that they are not in need of follow-up support.

Please Don’t Have a Bake Sale or Give Away Food!

Nothing makes someone with an eating disorder run away from an event faster than offering or selling food. And although I know how effective free food is in getting people to come to your event—and how effective bake sales can be for a fundraiser—I have to say: DON’T DO IT. Not for this week of events.

 

The people who you most want to include and inform with your event are the people who are run off by the presence of cheap, greasy pizza or cupcakes.

 

Target Friends.

At the end of the day, the most likely audience for a well-crafted EDAW event are students who are concerned about a peer, sibling, parent, or other loved one. This group is often the most interested in what they can do to help a loved one and support them in their journey back to wellness. Keep that in mind as you develop your programming and compile questions for your panelists.

 

 Date February 22, 2016

 Author Maggie Bertram

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

 

Prevention & Awareness

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Said and Heard

February 27, 2017 February 28, 2017 Maggie Bertram

 

What they said: “You look great! Have you lost weight?”

 

What she heard: “Skinnier is better! Keep going!”

 

What they said: “Eating healthy is so important.”

 

What he heard: “If you’re not eating like me, then you’re not eating healthy.”

 

What they said: “You look so healthy!”

 

What she heard: “You’ve gained weight.”

 

What they said to my colleague in an organization that addresses mental health and wellness: “You’re so disciplined. I wish I could have the same self-control you have.”

 

What I heard: “Self-control is good. You are better than me because you eat things that the diet industrial complex tells me I should.”

 

The impact on the office culture: “Everyone is watching what you eat. Everyone is judging your size and exercise habits. You’ll be praised if you go to the gym or eat the salad. Gazes will shift and you’ll be met with silence if you eat the sandwich.”

 

No culture is immune to the messages we absorb and perpetuate about eating, exercise, and body image. Not even Active Minds’ culture. In fact, if you hung out in our office in DC for a day, you would no doubt hear people putting down their own bodies or habits, glorifying others’, and generally perceiving that there is only one best nutritional approach, or exercise routine, or body shape.

 

As someone who has been in recovery for nearly 12 years, these comments no longer trigger me, but they do annoy me. Especially when I hear them coming out of my own mouth. They also demonstrate the insidiousness of Western fitness culture, and they parallel the persistence and complexity of eating disorders.

 

There’s nothing simple about body image, disordered eating, or eating disorders on their own; so, when they are inevitably entangled, it’s often hard to help people understand why they occur, who they impact, and what we can all be doing to change the culture that perpetuates them. Here are some good things to remember:

 

Eating disorders occur for a number of different reasons. People don’t simply develop eating disorders because of diet culture or pictures in magazines. Often, people develop eating disorders because they’re depressed or anxious, or they’ve experienced trauma, and they’re seeking control over something in their lives. Some people are susceptible to messages that drugs or alcohol can fix that, and they abuse substances. And some of us are susceptible to messages that if we can control our bodies—if we can make them smaller and strip them of their energy—we will be happier and numb ourselves to negativity. These aren’t rational or positive coping mechanisms, but they are deeply human responses that take root as illnesses.

 

Eating disorders can impact anyone. Stop it with the “rich, white girl” trope! Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses—not diets or vanity run amok. Research shows that eating disorders don’t discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexuality, race, ethnicity, economics, or spiritual orientation. Rather, eating disorders feed on trauma, anxiety, depression, and other extreme stressors.

 

Eating disorders don’t look alike. Put the idea of the “anorexic supermodel” out of your mind. This is not the image of someone with an eating disorder. Eating disorders take up residence in the brain, regardless of the body that houses it. Some people with eating disorders are underweight, some are overweight, and some people are a normal weight. An eating disorder is not defined by the weight of a person. An eating disorder is defined by their behaviors, the effect of which may cause weight fluctuations as well as a full spectrum of medical complications. So stop equating “eating disorder” with “too skinny,” please.

 

There’s no one way to eat, exercise, or look. No two people have the same nutritional or exercise needs. No two people look exactly alike. Okay, fine. Maybe identical twins will call me out on this one. But generally, we need to stop perpetuating the myth that there’s one right way to eat healthy or exercise right that applies to everyone. So, people out there who think, “I’m not as good as the person I know who has cut out carbs or dairy,” stop it. If you’re happy with how you feel, your body does what you need it to do, and your doctor isn’t detecting any health issues, you’re fine. And those of you who think, “I’m the healthiest person I know because I don’t eat this, do these exercises, and look this way,” just stop it. Health looks different on everyone, and what is right for you probably wouldn’t work for the person next to you. Let’s give up the good versus evil narrative that drives people to invest in “diet solutions.”

 

Compliment anything else that doesn’t feed the eating disorder. Why are we constantly complimenting each other’s looks? Seriously. Why is it so important for us to say those things immediately upon seeing someone? These are questions I began seriously asking myself 4.5 years ago when my goddaughter was born. Ever since, I’ve endeavored to compliment Lila and her little sister in a whole slew of ways, but never on their appearance. At the end of the day, the things I love most about my goddaughter are her ferocity, her creativity, her precociousness, and her generosity. So, why wouldn’t I compliment those things every second I have the chance?

 

What we say about ourselves matters. You can do everything right to support a friend with an eating disorder. You can pay close attention to how you address their anxieties, support their recovery, and avoid talking about their weight, exercise, food, or size. But if you’re still dumping on your own body image, food choices, and clothing sizes within their earshot, then you’re perpetuating the culture in which an eating disorder voice continues to thrive. You’re poking at their anxieties and triggering messages they are working hard every day to push away. Not only that, but you’re destroying your own confidence. Why would you do that? When you stop being your own worst enemy, you stop being others’.

 

Eating disorder thoughts and behaviors are all around us, and they probably always will be. However, we can work to ensure that they can’t find fertile soil in which to take root. Let this Eating Disorders Awareness Week be just the beginning of an entire year of rejecting body shaming and eating disorder culture. We owe it to each other, and most importantly, we owe it to ourselves.

 

Treatment is available. For more information call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

 

Trying to support a friend who may be experiencing an eating disorder? Check out our resources for being a friend at www.ActiveMinds.org/BeAFriend.

 

eating disorder awareness week mental health

 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: The Connection with Trauma

By Laura Porter

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Trigger warning: This post discusses sexual violence. If you need assistance, please visit Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

 

Eating-Disorders_Abuse_Oceanside-Malibu

 

What does trauma have to do with an eating disorder?

 

This is the question I asked myself over and over again, but it’s a question we don’t seem to talk about.

 

What did my sexual assault have to do with my eating disorder? I struggled to put the pieces together. I poured over scholarly literature, using my school’s online library to find any research I could that examined the connection between rape and eating disorders.

 

But the literature was scarce, and even more scarce was the information online that examined the intersection between trauma and eating disorders. The discussions about these issues existed in separate spheres. Sexual assault advocacy seemed to center around helping survivors report the assault, seeking some sort of justice for the atrocity we’ve experienced.

 

But, to me, the onus is still on the survivor to report–and the shame I felt, the powerlessness, was exacerbated by the feeling that I was supposed to be fighting a battle against my assailant–not a war against myself.

 

Eating disorder recovery seemed to be in a different realm as well. When I entered into treatment again in the summer of 2015, it was so hard for people to understand why I was holding onto the eating disorder. I didn’t want to be sick, I knew what it was like and I knew what I was losing–my desire to be an advocate, my voice and my life.

 

My eating disorder wasn’t about fitting into a thin “ideal,” it wasn’t about looking “pretty” or being accepted. In fact, it was pretty much the opposite–I wanted to disappear, to feel safe and to shrink my body so that no man could possibly find me attractive–so that, I thought, I couldn’t get hurt again. This was hard for people to understand because it doesn’t fit within the stereotypes we associate with eating disorders, and it didn’t seem to fit with any of the common factors that can contribute to eating disorders.

 

The shame and subsequent isolation I felt drove me to search for a sense of community–to search tirelessly for anyone who had a similar experience, who could relate and understand the connection between my assault and eating disorder.

 

In December of 2015, I began reading Controlled, a book by Neesha Arter, an inspiring woman who has come to be one of my closest friends. I couldn’t put the book down. I kept highlighting passages, writing sentences down in my journal, thinking the whole time, “Oh my God, she gets it.”

 

Neesha recounts her experience with sexual assault, and her subsequent battle with anorexia. There are so many passages in this book I could present here that describe what I felt and I find so much of myself in her writing. But this particular quote I will share and it is very important to me.

 

“My body felt divided and broken from my mind, like a shattered piece of glass on the floor. Those two boys had damaged it beyond repair. It had no beauty left in it, and I didn’t my respect anymore. The memory of their hands on my body and inside of me took away any ownership I had for myself.” (p. 54.)

 

I found my story reflected in Neesha’s. Finally, someone had put into words what I had felt and someone spoke up about the intersection of trauma and eating disorders, putting together the pieces that I had struggled to connect.

 

In Neesha, I found the “other me,” someone who shared my story and my truth.

 

So often we hear, “You’re not alone.” It’s a true and very valid statement, but it wasn’t until I was able to really connect with another person, to talk with her and to share our stories, that I truly felt I wasn’t alone.  

 

I realize that this piece may not be as uplifting as many eating disorder posts are. I haven’t include some kind of “happy ending” or wrapped the post up with some larger realization I’ve discovered through this process. That’s not what this post is about.

 

My hope is that we can start a dialogue about the ways sexual assault and eating disorders intersect, that we speak up and break the shame, and potentially find your “other me.”

 

 Date February 24, 2016

 Author Laura Porter

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week, recovery, sexual assault, trauma

 

#EDAW: 7 Facts About Eating Disorders

By Mary Duffy

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

 

10957867_10152558910217676_294281118006125873_nEating disorders are severe mental illnesses which have been portrayed inaccurately for decades. Although public awareness of the reality of eating disorders is improving, harmful stereotypes are still distressingly common. Eating disorders are not a matter of vanity or a “phase.” They are serious illnesses with life-and-death outcomes.

 

Here are a few facts to help get you educated this Eating Disorder Awareness Week:

 

  1. 10-15% of individuals with anorexia or bulimia are male. Binge eating disorder is thought to affect males and females nearly equally.

 

  1. Weight is not an accurate indicator of illness severity. Most individuals with bulimia nervosa are normal in weight and some are overweight. Even someone with anorexia nervosa can be overweight. Weight is not an accurate indicator of illness severity.

 

  1. 50-80% of the causes of eating disorders are genetic. These are biologically-based illnesses, not a choice.

 

  1. Anorexia nervosa is the most lethal psychiatric illness. We don’t even know the true mortality rate of eating disorders because many deaths are recorded as heart failure, suicide, etc. when an eating disorder is the underlying cause.

 

  1. Only 10% of people with eating disorders ever seek treatment. Of those, only 35% are treated in a facility which specializes in eating disorders.

 

  1. Eating disorder treatment at the residential level (24 hour program) can cost more than $1,000 per day. With most residential treatment programs lasting 45 days or more.

 

  1. Eating disorder research is severely underfunded compared to other mental health disorders. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has allocated only $1.20 in research funding per affected eating disorder patient compared to $159 in funding per affected individual with schizophrenia.

 

  1. As you can see, we can’t determine who has an eating disorder just by looking at them. Eating disorders do not discriminate by age, race, socioeconomic status, sex, or gender. Likewise, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and we can’t expect to develop best treatment practices without sufficient funding.

 

It’s time to put money toward eating disorders research. It’s time to find out what works and for whom. It’s time to invest in finding the keys to eating disorder recovery.

 

Eating disorders are serious illnesses. It’s time to take them seriously.

 

Want to learn more about eating disorders, recent advocacy efforts in the field, or find a treatment provider? Check out our friends at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)! 

 

 Date February 24, 2015

 Author Mary Duffy

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

 

Prevention & Awareness

#EDAW: My Alcoholism and Eating Disorder

February 25, 2015 February 19, 2015 Laura Porter

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

 

photo-300x300I am in recovery from both an eating disorder and alcoholism — and I am not alone. About 50 percent of those of us who struggle with eating disorders also abuse drugs or alcohol, compared with nine percent of the general population.

 

If you search the web for co-occurring eating disorders and substance abuse, you will find a lot — I mean a lot — of articles about the term “drunkorexia,” specifically referring to college students. I want to emphasize that “drunkorexia” is a non-clinical buzzword that has cropped up, particularly in mainstream media.

 

The term may be flashy, and may be a short, easy-to-use word for writers, but it overlooks the aspect that eating disorders are not a choice. The idea behind this word is that people will engage in eating disorder behaviors in order to drink more, attempting to “compensate” for the alcohol consumed.

 

But this isn’t what illnesses are about, and that’s why we should focus on the actual issue: the touchy-feely stuff.

 

I used the eating disorder as a way to try and control how I felt. If I felt sad or hurt, I would use the eating disorder because it distracted me from what I was actually feeling. It took up so much head space that I didn’t have to focus on those feelings I avoided. The alcohol did the same thing. It helped me forget what I was truly feeling.

 

I attempted to numb the pain I was feeling by drinking and using ED behaviors, but I just kept needing more and more to push away the emotions. I grew a tolerance not only to alcohol, but to the pain I was inflicting on my body through the eating disorder and it just took more and more self-destructing behaviors to feel numb.

 

After a little while, it stopped working. I thought I was just hiding from the bad feelings, but in reality I was hiding from the good too and shutting out the love and compassion I longed for. I couldn’t really feel better until I began to let myself feel worse.

 

I began to get help for my illnesses and learned that I had to treat both at the same time. It was like whack-a-mole if I didn’t. If I was doing well in my eating disorder, I would turn to the bottle and vice versa. It was not because I could never get better–recovery is possible–it was because I wasn’t addressing the underlying issues that led me to seek comfort in the eating disorder and alcohol in the first place.

 

There’s a saying that I heard early in my sobriety that “one drink is too many and a thousand is never enough.” The same goes for my eating disorder behaviors. My brain sometimes tries to convince me that I am just like non-alcoholics and people who haven’t experienced an eating disorder. But I know that my worst day in recovery is a million times better than my best day suffering in silence and, one day at a time, I’m going to hold onto that.

 

eating disorder awareness week eating disorders substance abuse

 

How to Prepare for Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By Laura Porter

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NEDA Awareness Week

 

From Feb. 22-28, chapter members and mental health advocates around the country will participate in National Eating Disorders Awareness week.

 

Active Minds’ theme this year — “You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, You Just Have to Be There” — emphasizes the importance of being supportive of someone else struggling and also being there for yourself.  If you’re looking for ways to start planning for the week, we’ve put together a list of awesome resources to get you prepared to host great programs and educate your community about eating disorders.

 

  1. Active Minds’ Eating Disorders Awareness Week Resources have valuable information on how you can be an advocate and ally on your campus.  We’ve put together an Action Kit including statistics to inform, social media tools and more. Request the Action Kit today and look into booking one of our awesome speakers to educate  your campus about eating disorders. 

 

images

 

  1. The National Eating Disorder Association has a great list of resources with a broad range of topics. Educate yourself about issues like media literacy, athletes and eating disorders and historically under-served populations. You can also find information on the site about resources for those who are struggling to find help specifically for support with eating disorder recovery.

 

speak image3. Colleges and universities also have campus organizations that promote eating disorder awareness. You can find informational resources from these organizations and gain some inspiration from seeing what other students are doing on their campuses.  Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at The George Washington University (SPEAK GW) is one of these organizations which hosted events throughout Eating Disorder Awareness Week in 2014. Check out their website and Facebook page for more information about the group!

 

 Date January 28, 2015

 Author Laura Porter

 Tags Active Minds Speakers Bureau, eating disorder awareness week, eating disorders, NEDA

 

eating disorder awareness week

12 Ways to Promote Mental Health Awareness on Your Campus

By Lee Ann Gardner

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Speakers_Bureau_Logo_Website

 

Now’s a great time to look ahead and plan your programs through the end of Fall semester and beyond; if you’re looking for a way to promote your Active Minds chapter on your campus, and raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention, consider hosting an event around one of the mental health awareness campaigns coming up!  Let Active Minds Speakers Bureau provide a presenter on one of the topics being highlighted, and remember– when you book an AMSB speaker, your chapter will receive programming credits toward your annual fundraising goal!

 

It’s not too late to organize an event around National Depression Screening Day®, Oct. 6 or World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10; Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place Oct. 2-8; all of the Active Minds speakers talk candidly about the impact of mental health disorders on their lives, and the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.  Continue Reading

 

 Date September 8, 2016

 Author Lee Ann Gardner

 Tags Active Minds Speakers Bureau, eating disorder awareness week, mental health, stress, suicide prevention month

 

May Chapter of the Month: University of Pennsylvania

By Robyn Suchy

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Congratulations to the chapter of the month, Active Minds at the University of Pennsylvania. Active Minds’ founding chapter has done an impeccable job at raising funds and awareness for mental health this year!

 

At the beginning of this semester, Active Minds at the University of Pennsylvania held an event called ‘Push Against Stigma’. Students recruited sponsors to participate in a push-up contest to raise money and promote conversation about mental health. This chapter awarded gift cards to the winners of the three different categories: most push-ups, most sponsors, and most money raised. The Krispy Kreme fundraiser allowed Penn students to have something that most college students want-pre-ordered food. A portion of the proceeds went to Active Minds.

 

Separately, the chapter also hosted a Krispy Kreme fundraiser to provide students with that they want most: pre-ordered food! The chapter donated a portion of the proceeds to Active Minds, Inc. All told, the chapter has raised $1,000 so far for Active Minds, Inc. and mental health awareness!

 

Upenn 1

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date May 31, 2016

 Author Robyn Suchy

 Tags Chapter of the Month, eating disorder awareness week, fundraising, social media, University of Pennsylvania

Mental Health News Round-Up: Feb 27

By Kathryn DeWitt

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The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.Graham Moore Gives the Oscar’s Most Moving Oscar’s Acceptance Speech

When accepting an Oscar for “The Imitation Game,” Graham Moore disclosed a past suicide attempt and then gave hope to “kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere” to embrace differences and weirdness.

 

7 Ways the Media’s Depiction of Eating Disorders Completely Fails Women of Color

Trigger Warning: Graphic Images and unhelpful phrases

 

Women of color are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders.  This author argues that more diverse representation in the media and debunking common misconceptions will increase the number of women of color working toward recovery.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 27, 2015

 Author Kathryn DeWitt

 Tags eating disorder awareness week, eating disorders, LGBTQ, media, mental health news, stigma

 

#EDAW: How to Be There for Someone with an Eating Disorder

By Maggie Bertram

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

 

Eating disorders are complex mental health issues that have serious physical health implications. No one deals with their eating disorder in the same way, but here are some general tips for being there for a friend.

 

DO keep inviting them to do things.

A lot of people who struggle with eating disorders have a tendency to isolate themselves, so they’re going to turn down your offer a lot. Keep inviting them. One of these times, they’ll say, “yes,” and that can do a lot of good.

 

Mindy Project | Dragged Me Out

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 27, 2015

 Author Maggie Bertram

 Tags eating disorder awareness week, eating disorders

 

#EDAW: My Alcoholism and Eating Disorder

By Laura Porter

Standard

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

 

photo-300x300I am in recovery from both an eating disorder and alcoholism — and I am not alone. About 50 percent of those of us who struggle with eating disorders also abuse drugs or alcohol, compared with nine percent of the general population.

 

If you search the web for co-occurring eating disorders and substance abuse, you will find a lot — I mean a lot — of articles about the term “drunkorexia,” specifically referring to college students. I want to emphasize that “drunkorexia” is a non-clinical buzzword that has cropped up, particularly in mainstream media.

 

The term may be flashy, and may be a short, easy-to-use word for writers, but it overlooks the aspect that eating disorders are not a choice. The idea behind this word is that people will engage in eating disorder behaviors in order to drink more, attempting to “compensate” for the alcohol consumed. Continue Reading

 

 Date February 25, 2015

 Author Laura Porter

 Tags eating disorder awareness week, eating disorders, substance abuse

 

#EDAW: You Don’t Need to Be Perfect

By Maggie Bertram

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EDAW_2015_Banner_Image

 

“You don’t need to be perfect; You just need to be there.”

 

I came up with this tagline for Active Minds’ observation of Eating Disorders Awareness Week a couple of years ago because a) it seems to sync well with the personal stories of people I’ve met, and b) it works on a couple different levels. Allow me to explain.

 

You don’t need to be perfect.

 

Hey, you — yeah, you, the one who is wired like me.

 

Maybe you’re toying with disordered eating, or you’ve already descended a distance down into the black hole that is an eating disorder, disconnecting from everything and everyone you love as you fall deeper: You don’t have to be perfect.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 23, 2015

 Author Maggie Bertram

 Tags eating disorder awareness week, eating disorders

 

How to Spread the Word About Your Active Minds Chapter

By Chapters Team

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MarketingInfographic

 

Struggling to get the word out about your chapter? You’re not alone. Nearly 31% of chapters identified outreach and marketing as a challenge in the Winter Inventory and we’re here to help.

 

For Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 22-28), we’re providing chapters with a free Action Kitthat includes a set of downloadable resources to promote your chapter and educate your peers.

 

Download the #EDAW Action Kit today! Here are five ways to publicize your chapter using the kit:

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 11, 2015

 Author Chapters Team

 Tags eating disorder awareness week, marketing, publicity

 

Chapters 101: February Fundraising Ideas

By Joanna Livinalli

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imagesFebruary is the perfect time to get your fundraising efforts off the ground for this semester. Eating Disorder Awareness Week is held February 23 – 28 and Valentine’s Day (as we all know) is coming up on February 14.

 

Here are two ideas to raise awareness and funds in February.

 

Restaurant fundraisers: Talk to local food joints that are located around your campus to see if you can host fundraisers. Normally, you do not need to pay anything for these fundraisers. Here’s how it works: you do some marketing for the event, get a large group of people to eat at the specific place you chose (let’s say you chose Subway) and because of the large influx of customers, the shop gives you a percentage of the revenue they make in the hours  designated for your fundraiser.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 5, 2015

 Author Joanna Livinalli

 Tags eating disorder awareness week, fundraising, Valentine’s Day

 

Program Bank Spotlight: Simmons College Smashes Scales

By Jaclyn Webber

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Program bankFor the last two years, Active Minds at Simmons College in Boston, MA, participated in Eating Disorders Awareness Week by smashing individual weight scales. The Speak Out and Smash a Scale event targeted the entire student body to educate, advocate, spread awareness, and build membership recruitment. The destruction of the scales symbolized shattering stigma surrounding eating disorders and personal body shame and self-doubt.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date January 29, 2015

 Author Jaclyn Webber

 Tags depression, eating disorder awareness week, eating disorders, self-care, stigma

 

How to Prepare for Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By Laura Porter

Standard

NEDA Awareness Week

 

From Feb. 22-28, chapter members and mental health advocates around the country will participate in National Eating Disorders Awareness week.

 

Active Minds’ theme this year — “You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, You Just Have to Be There” — emphasizes the importance of being supportive of someone else struggling and also being there for yourself.  If you’re looking for ways to start planning for the week, we’ve put together a list of awesome resources to get you prepared to host great programs and educate your community about eating disorders.

 

  1. Active Minds’ Eating Disorders Awareness Week Resources have valuable information on how you can be an advocate and ally on your campus.  We’ve put together an Action Kit including statistics to inform, social media tools and more. Request the Action Kit today and look into booking one of our awesome speakers to educate  your campus about eating disorders.  Continue Reading

 

 Date January 28, 2015

 Author Laura Porter

 Tags Active Minds Speakers Bureau, eating disorder awareness week, eating disorders, NEDA

 

eating disorders awareness week

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: The Connection with Trauma

By Laura Porter

Standard

Trigger warning: This post discusses sexual violence. If you need assistance, please visit Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

 

Eating-Disorders_Abuse_Oceanside-Malibu

 

What does trauma have to do with an eating disorder?

 

This is the question I asked myself over and over again, but it’s a question we don’t seem to talk about.

 

What did my sexual assault have to do with my eating disorder? I struggled to put the pieces together. I poured over scholarly literature, using my school’s online library to find any research I could that examined the connection between rape and eating disorders.

 

But the literature was scarce, and even more scarce was the information online that examined the intersection between trauma and eating disorders. The discussions about these issues existed in separate spheres. Sexual assault advocacy seemed to center around helping survivors report the assault, seeking some sort of justice for the atrocity we’ve experienced.

 

But, to me, the onus is still on the survivor to report–and the shame I felt, the powerlessness, was exacerbated by the feeling that I was supposed to be fighting a battle against my assailant–not a war against myself.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 24, 2016

 Author Laura Porter

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week, recovery, sexual assault, trauma

 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: A Letter to My Best Friend’s Professor

By Juliette Virzi

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This post was originally published in The Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper.

 

Dear My Best Friend’s Professor,

 

I wanted to start off by letting you know that I think you are amazing. I don’t know the extent of what you do here at UCLA, but I do know that in order to have reached your esteemed position at this university, you have done incredible research and have played a huge part in shaping the minds of tomorrow. For these things, I thank you.

 

I’m writing to you because I didn’t feel I could adequately express my concerns on the quarterly evaluation form. As you know, your student (my best friend) has been in treatment for her mental health-related difficulties. And as you are well aware, this has taken a toll on her class performance.

 

My best friend was diagnosed with anorexia this quarter. Her condition steadily worsened. Anorexia was killing her. She should have been hospitalized on the spot.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 23, 2016

 Author Juliette Virzi

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Bad Body Image ≠ Eating Disorder

By Maggie Bertram

Standard

EDAW_2016_Banner_Image

 

For several years now, I have helped college students plan Eating Disorders Awareness Week events. In honor of this year’s EDAW, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned.

 

Almost every campus EDAW program is about body image.

Here’s why that sucks.

 

Poor body image alone doesn’t cause eating disorders. If it did, then the prevalence of eating disorders would be two or three times what it is. Now, sure, for many who struggle with anorexia and some who struggle with bulimia, body image is a part of the illness. But even then, it is rarely a cause.

 

Plus, when we focus almost exclusively on body image, we exclude so many people who are struggling because the issue doesn’t resonate for them. They think to themselves, “that’s not why this is happening!” and they disengage.

 

Finally, focusing on body image minimizes the range of eating disorders that exist and their complexity. Eating disorders are not diets run amok. The are the most persistent and deadly mental illnesses. They’re about a lot more than comparing oneself against airbrushed bodies in magazines, and everyone’s experience is different. As someone who has personally struggled with anorexia in the past, I will never be able to completely understand someone else’s struggle with anorexia—let alone bulimia or binge eating disorder.

 

Many other EDAW programs are about nutrition.

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 22, 2016

 Author Maggie Bertram

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

 

Recovery: It Requires Tethers

By Maggie Bertram

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I623556d1e6aebbfb83925b44add83613t’s been 11 years since I walked out the doors of my eating disorders treatment program and into a windy, but mild February afternoon.

 

My time there had felt both quick and endless. The days were long, the nights were short, and the effects were profound.

 

Unlike many other people who struggle with eating disorders, I didn’t end up having to go back to inpatient treatment ever again. I don’t mean to imply the road from there has been all puppies and rainbows, but I do consider myself incredibly lucky.

 

Because eating disorders will stick with you.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 12, 2016

 Author Maggie Bertram

 Tags anxiety, depression, eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

 

#EDAW: Supporting Someone with an Eating Disorder? Here’s What You Need to Hear

By Benjamin O’Keefe

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

 

All across the country this imagesweek, people are raising awareness for eating disorders: a group of mental illnesses that kills more people each year than any other.

 

We are breaking down the stigmas of eating disorders and advocating for those who struggle. While much attention will be brought to the people who suffer with or have recovered from eating disorders this week, there is one group who mostly likely won’t be recognized: support people.

 

When I struggled with anorexia I felt alone, but with the support of the my friends and family, I was able to see that was far from the truth. So support people, this one is for you. Here are the top five things you need to hear that no one is telling you.

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 26, 2015

 Author Benjamin O’Keefe

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

 

#EDAW: 7 Facts About Eating Disorders

By Mary Duffy

Standard

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

 

10957867_10152558910217676_294281118006125873_nEating disorders are severe mental illnesses which have been portrayed inaccurately for decades. Although public awareness of the reality of eating disorders is improving, harmful stereotypes are still distressingly common. Eating disorders are not a matter of vanity or a “phase.” They are serious illnesses with life-and-death outcomes.

 

Here are a few facts to help get you educated this Eating Disorder Awareness Week:

 

  1. 10-15% of individuals with anorexia or bulimia are male. Binge eating disorder is thought to affect males and females nearly equally.

 

Continue Reading

 

 Date February 24, 2015

 Author Mary Duffy

 Tags eating disorders, eating disorders awareness week

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