What You Need to Know About National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

This year, Feb. 26 through March 4 is the 30th annual National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Run by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), this week’s mission is to emphasize knowledge about eating disorders and help those who may be affected by them. As the NEDA’s website says, “It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns…It’s time to take action and fight for change.”

To ensure that you get the most out of this week and learn something that can save yourself or a friend, we’ve compiled some facts about eating disorders and how you can learn even more about the fight to destroy the stigma surrounding them.

Eating disorders have the highest morality rate of any mental illness

According to NEDA, about 30 million Americans will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. But did you know that a lot of people—including health care professionals—don’t always see the signs of suffering from one? Because of this, NEDAwareness Week highlights that eating disorders are often related to other health issues like substance abuse, trauma and bullying. For example: 35 percent of people with a history of substance abuse have also experienced an eating disorder. Among women with bulimia, 38 to 44 percent have also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, while the majority of people with eating disorders are also inclined to experience psychiatric disorders like depression and OCD. If that’s not enough to convince you that eating disorders need to be taken seriously, we don’t know what is.

Getting past the stigma of eating disorders might be the hardest part of accepting treatment

“Eating disorders are life-threatening, bio-psycho-social illnesses that affect millions of people,” says Claire Mysko, CEO of NEDA, in a press release. “It’s time to talk about it, get beyond the stigma and stereotypes and recognize the diverse faces and experiences of people affected by disordered eating.” One of our favorite artists, Kesha, is the campaign’s spokesperson this year, having entered rehab for eating disorder treatment in 2014. She agrees with Mysko, saying, “We should all be proud of exactly who we are and, if you need help or know someone who does, NEDA is here.”

It may be difficult to speak up about this truth, but this week’s goal is to lower that worry and make others’ acceptance key to the treatment process.

You can help cause early detection and intervention of a disorder by using NEDA’s free screening system

The NEDA offers a confidential quiz for those wondering if they should start seeing professional help with their disorders. While it’s important to note that this doesn’t replace an official diagnosis, nearly 40,000 users were screened throughout the 2016 campaign, and organizers are expecting over 100,000 this year. Take the three-minute quiz to explain how you’ve been feeling lately—you'll receive explanations about what these moods could mean for your wellbeing. Results will also include information that further explains how you can find help.

Professional help is always available

NEDA offers a helpline phone number at 1-800-931-2237, and there’s constant conversation associated with the campaign’s hashtag, #NEDAwareness. Check out the organization’s Help & Resources page, where there’s options to chat live with someone, text a crisis line and find advice on how to help a loved one in this situation. No matter how uncertain you feel about seeking help, doing so will ultimately be a step in the right direction. With these kind of resources in mind, just remember that you are not alone in this fight.

Tune into the NEDA Week conversation online with the hashtag #NEDAwareness!