Diagnosing certain disorders still problematic

A recent study alarmingly suggests eating disorders are still going unnoticed

Story by Katy Macek, Copy Editor

Every Friday morning starts out pretty much the same way for me. I make a cup of coffee and pick up my latest copy of Glamour Magazine.

Last Friday I stumbled across a statistic scary enough to make me want to write about it.

Of the 30 million Americans who will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime, only 1 in 10 will receive proper treatment, according to a recent study conducted by Glamour Magazine and the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, an advocacy group in Florida.

I was learning about eating disorders in my early teenage years, and I am certainly aware of the symptoms that are commonly associated with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

I’m not saying I am in the position to properly diagnose these. However, with all the advancements in the medical field and technology we have seen in recent years, this is something doctors should be more equipped to understand.

The study sent seven volunteers who either had eating disorders in the past, or worked with women who have, into primary care doctors’ offices. There they listed off several symptoms associated with these behaviors to test doctors’ reactions.

Five of the seven dismissed their symptoms and just suggested to eat more. There was one doctor who even expressed jealousy to hear the weight loss one volunteer mentioned.

“Just eat three meals a day and stop being so dramatic,” one doctor said to one of the volunteer patients.

“Eat some salty crap like potato chips – we’re going to pack on the pounds. It will be easy. You’ll see,” another doctor said in the study.

These are supposed to be the people we trust to take care of us, but the things they told these volunteers are in some cases worse than the advice a friend would offer.

Fortunately, this isn’t the case for all doctors.

Johanna Kandel, founder and CEO of the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, said while these responses are “heartbreaking”, there is still hope.

“Women with eating disorders have also told me that it’s because of a well-informed general practitioner that they’re alive today,” she said in an interview with Glamour Magazine.

This becomes a matter of making sure all doctors receive proper training before entering the professional medical field and knowing how serious these diseases still are.

And not just to females. Eating disorders affect both males and females and aren’t limited to a single body type. They can affect anyone.

Judith Wylie-Rosett, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said in the article that only one session on diagnosing eating disorders is scheduled in the second year of medical school.

While we can’t change the medical field, there are several things you can do if you or someone you know may be battling an eating disorder, according to the article.

Make an appointment with a professional if you are dealing with sudden weight loss or gain, but make sure they have experience in treating these issues. Check for local providers at Aedweb.org or Nationaleatingdisorders.org.

If you’re concerned about a friend, talk to them. Just make sure to be supportive and not accusatory. Share observations about his or her behavior and mention you’re worried.

If you care about the issue, ask your representatives to support the FREED Act, a bill that “would expand federal funding for eating disorder education, training and research.”

In my experience, talking to a friend has always been easier than talking to a medical professional, but the first step is simply talking to someone.