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As many as 30 million people in America will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life. With statistics this high, it is likely that you, or someone you know, has dealt with this mental health issue. Family members, friends, and even coworkers can struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Despite their prevalence, eating disorders are treatable. As with most illnesses, the earlier an eating disorder is detected and treated, the better chance exists for successful recovery.

What is an eating disorder? An eating disorder is a mental illness that causes a serious change in your diet. It can lead you to eat a very small amount of food or even overeat and binge. Sometimes eating disorders begin as diets but, over time, spiral out of control. Eating disorders can also be characterized by an obsession with weight, body shape, and even depression.

Eating disorders often begin in the teenage years. In fact, eating disorders represent the third most common chronic illness (after asthma and obesity) in adolescent girls. Although eating disorders are less common among adults, they can easily persist past the teenage years. Because of this, early intervention is important. Parents, classmates, and teachers are in a crucial position to notice the first symptoms.

The changes that may indicate the onset of an eating disorder are not always obvious. Those who struggle with bulimia or binge-eating disorder, for example, will not necessarily be underweight. Parents and friends may instead notice a depressed mood or withdrawal from things once enjoyed. Obsessive exercise habits, frequent trips to the bathroom following meals, or physical complaints including dizziness, headaches, and constipation can also be signs.

Concerned about someone you know but not sure how to help? Online screenings are a great place to start. Online screenings consist of a series of questions designed to indicate whether symptoms of an eating disorder are present. After completing the screening, participants receive immediate, confidential feedback and referral information to local resources for further information or treatment.

As part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 21 -27), screenings are available online and in-person at organizations across the country. Screening for Mental Health is proud to partner with the National Eating Disorders Association to provide MyBodyScreening.org. The website provides anonymous online eating disorder screenings and information on participating organizations where you live.

Spreading eating disorder awareness can save lives. Join us during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week as we work to provide screenings and information to those who need it most. Share MyBodyScreening.org with someone you care about. Early intervention can be the key to recovery.