Marywood University is participating in National Eating Disorder Screening Day on Thursday, February, 27, 2020. The screenings will be held at the McGowan Center for Graduate and Professional Services, in the Psychological Services Center from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. The screenings are free, anonymous, and confidential.
Across the country, clinics and therapists will be offering free, anonymous, and confidential screenings for eating disorders. This day offers confidential opportunities for individuals to consult a professional to learn more about eating disorders and the symptoms they may be experiencing. All screenings are open to the community and people of all ages are encouraged to attend.
Eating disorders affect 30 million people in the United States at some point in their lives. They are real, complex issues that can have serious consequences for health and productivity, and they have an impact on the family, friends, and loved ones of someone who is struggling. Eating disorders are not fads, phases, or lifestyle choices. People struggling with an eating disorder often become obsessed with food, body image, and/or weight. These disorders can be life-threatening if not recognized and treated appropriately. The earlier a person receives treatment, the greater the likelihood of full recovery.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if one’s food habits are not ideal, or if they require treatment with a trained professional. Some of the warning signs that may involve an eating disorder are having a preoccupation with weight, food, calories, dieting, and/or body image. Since it could lead to health complications, some important behaviors to look for include self-induced vomiting after meals, periods of fasting or laxative, using diet pills, or diuretic abuse. Another sign that an eating disorder may be present is compulsive or excessive exercising. One may also develop secretive, extreme, or ritualized food or eating habits. These habits may sometimes influence one to withdraw from their usual friends and activities.
Eating disorders can lead to many health problems so it recommended that one get screened as early as possible in order to avoid severe complications that can have an impact on one’s quality of life.
It is important to remember that experiencing an eating disorder could feel overwhelming and it may feel like it controls one’s life. Individuals may feel like they have no control and thus overeat. It can be very difficult to have thoughts about food for some, most or all of the day. Thoughts can relate to wanting to eat constantly or to eat as little as possible. They may also include feeling preoccupied with one’s body, whether it appears too big or too small, or not having enough muscle mass. These thoughts and preoccupations can be a large source of pressure and stress in one’s life and may leave them with feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, or cause them to be irritable. Among the more severe complications, people with anorexia nervosa had a six-fold increase in mortality compared to the general population. Reasons for death include starvation, substance abuse, and suicide. For those who are suffering needlessly, help can be made available through a proper referral.
When thinking about eating disorders, body image is strongly related. Body image is defined as one’s thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes about their physical appearance. How do you see yourself and feel about your body (e.g., height, shape, and weight) when you look in the mirror? According to the National Eating Disorder Association, positive body image is a clear, true perception of your shape; seeing the various parts of your body as they really are. Body positivity (or body satisfaction) involves feeling comfortable and confident in your body, accepting your natural body shape and size, and recognizing that physical appearance says very little about one’s character and value as a person.
A negative body image, on the other hand, involves a distorted perception for one’s shape. Negative body image (or body dissatisfaction) involves feelings of shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness. People who experience high levels of body dissatisfaction feel their bodies are flawed in comparison to others, and these people are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and eating disorders. While there is no single cause of eating disorders, research indicates that body dissatisfaction is the best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Body image concerns often begin at a young age and endure throughout life. By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape, and 40-60 percent of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. Furthermore, over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. It is important to note that the age of onset differs depending on the individual, and these body image concerns may start younger or never come up at all.
While eating disorders affect eight percent of the population, only one in ten people will receive treatment. This is an especially disheartening statistic, given that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among mental health concerns. Part of the problem is that many people with eating disorders are afraid to disclose their symptoms for fear that they will suffer humiliation or will look weak or crazy.
Eating Disorder Screening Day is designed to bring awareness and assistance to those who may be suffering in silence. Eating disorders are fully treatable. This day can help guide and offer next steps and referrals to the appropriate resources. After completing a brief questionnaire, participants will be able to meet alone with a therapist to discuss their concerns.
For additional information about Marywood University’s free and confidential Eating Disorder Screenings, please visit www.marywood.edu/psc or call (570) 348-6269. Free educational videos and pamphlets will also be available.
By: Simon Stauber, M.A., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Psy. D. Student
Matthew Schaffer, Psy.D.
Assistant Professor of Practice
Psychological Services Center