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Eating Disorder Awareness Month should be recognized as eating disorder cases continue to rise nationally.

The month of February marks Eating Disorder Awareness Month, and it is important for us to recognize and be aware of the various eating disorders individuals may potentially suffer from all around the United States.

Some of the common eating disorders include bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder centered around binging preceded by purging, an attempt to clear the food consumed, which can be done either by laxatives or by vomiting. Most individuals who suffer from bulimia are normal weight although they are often very dehydrated due to purging.

Bulimia also causes imbalances throughout the body, low potassium and electrolyte levels, pregnancy complications, irregular heartbeat and it can erode the teeth, according to Healthline’s website. The website said bulimia affects more young women rather than older women, but it also can affect men.

In the United States 1.5% of the female population suffers from bulimia nervosa, according to the American Addiction Centers website, while 0.5% of the male population suffers from this specific eating disorder.

One of my close friends, who I have known since middle school, told me recently she suffered from bulimia, as well as anorexia nervosa, another common eating disorder, all throughout middle and high school. I had known my friend for all those years and I had no idea she suffered from multiple eating disorders, which is why it is so important to recognize eating disorders are not always visible.

Anorexia nervosa is when an individual has an abnormally low body weight, according to the American Addiction Centers page on anorexia nervosa. Some of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa include exhaustion, low blood pressure, loss of muscle structure, infertility and lack of menstruation in females, brain, heart, organ issues or failure, along with other various symptoms, according to the page.

Of the male population, 0.3% suffer from anorexia, 0.9% of the women population suffer from anorexia, the page said, and 1.2% of the U.S. population that are 25 years or older has had anorexia at some point in their life. Even though 1.2% is a relatively small percentage, it is still too high as the percentage for anorexia, along with all other eating disorders, should be 0%.

Eating disorders can arise from many different things, some of which include depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, past trauma, body chemical issues and genetics, the website said. The website said eating disorders can cause many of the examples listed above as well as alcohol and drug abuse.

As a college student in today’s society, I am constantly on social media. A few months ago, I came across an Instagram post that highlighted some of the eating disorders normalized in “eating disorder culture.” Some individuals may not eat throughout the day to fit into the outfit of choice or to have more fun when they go out, people may “pull trig” or make others feel bad by commenting on their weight or food intake, the post said.

The “freshman 15” or “sorority 40” is also another commonly normalized within eating disorder college culture, according to the post. Some people I know, as well as myself, have been guilty of saying things like “I wish I didn’t eat so much so I could be skinner,” or “I wish I didn’t eat this today, maybe I would’ve fit into my outfit.”

Even if individuals may exhibit these types of behaviors, it does not necessarily mean they have an eating disorder, but it is important to be aware of these actions in order to stop the eating disorder issues that may arise in the future. It is important to avoid and hold others accountable for the language and phrases listed above, educate yourself on the various eating disorders and understand that eating disorders can affect anyone of any age, gender, race and size.

If you are sure or unsure if people you know suffer from an eating disorder, I would suggest to constantly check up on them, ask them if they eat their proper nutrition everyday, because I did not with my close friend who suffered from eating disorders for many years on end. But now, I ask her everyday if she eats, hydrates and gets her proper nutrition.

My close friend could have suffered injuries if she did not tell someone about it. She did not tell me, but at least she told someone who was actually able to get them the help they needed.

Other common eating disorders include binge eating disorder, where individuals eat uncontrollably and have feelings of distress, disgust, guilt or shame afterwards. Pica, another eating disorder heavily centered around children, adolescents, individuals with mental disabilities and pregnant women who ingest objects such as dirt, paper, hair or other foreign objects in order.

Individuals can visit the American Addiction Centers website, the National Eating Disorders website along with other websites which include the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that have further explanations about the various types of eating disorders many individuals of all ages across the globe suffer with. Individuals can also call the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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