“Now that I’ve been in treatment for a while I know that eating disorders are not about food or vanity. It’s hurtful how often I hear statements like ‘Why don’t you just eat?’ Ann, a 24-year old Bucks County resident laments an experience shared by many men and women with eating disorders. It is a hurtful viewpoint that minimizes the experience of those with eating disorder. It is sometimes hard to make others who do not have firsthand experience “get it.” Fortunately this trend seems to be changing.
“After years of working to raise awareness, and educate teens, parents, coaches and teachers about the truth behind eating disorders, the public now gets it”, said Lynn Grefe, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association [NEDA]. NEDA recently conducted a national survey and the results are encouraging.
Researchers compared statistics from focus groups conducted 7 years ago to more recent views about eating disorders. “Seven years ago the stigma of having an eating disorder was very real. Focus group participants were uncomfortable even talking about having an eating disorder or telling anyone if a family member struggled”, said Grefe. According to the new survey, 95% of the respondents today would tell someone and seek help if they struggled with the disorder, or would encourage others to get help.
The new survey also shows the public understands that eating disorders are not lifestyle choices. Eighty-two percent of respondents believe that eating disorders are a physical or mental illness and should be treated as such, with just 12% believing they are related to vanity.
Fifty-nine percent indicate that public awareness of eating disorders has increased over the past five years and 78% believe they have enough information to know if someone were suffering from an eating disorder. And, the public indicated they know a great deal or fair amount about eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, with 57% indicating they knew a great deal or fair amount about bulimia and anorexia nervosa and 51% knew a great deal or fair amount about binge eating disorder.
“These respondents believe that more entities need to join the fight against eating disorders” said Grefe. Schools have a role to play according to this survey, with 86% favoring (65% strong favoring) schools providing information about eating disorders to students and parents. The public (85%) also believes that insurance companies should cover treatment for eating disorders.
Finally, when presented with various ways to reduce or prevent eating disorders, the survey found that the public believed each would work including:
82% believe providing more prevention programs in schools would reduce or prevent eating disorders;
80% believe conducting more research on the causes and most effective treatments would reduce or prevent eating disorders; and
70% believe encouraging the media and advertisers to use more average sized people in their advertising campaigns would reduce or prevent eating disorders.
Philadelphia area treatment programs:
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