Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are eating disorders that have dated back to the Middle Ages. These disorders were considered “wasting diseases” and it was not until the 1980’s that published papers and studies were written that centered on these disorders. Over the past decade, awareness has increased about eating disorders and the stigma associated with these mental health disorders has decreased however there are still a lot of barriers to treatment. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is a national initiative to raise awareness about eating disorders. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 26th-March 4th 2018 and is sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). This year’s theme is “Let’s Get Real”. The goal is to expand the conversation and share stories that are not often heard in the media; stories about the reality of eating disorders and personal experiences centered on treatment. NEDA is a well-known and recognized eating disorder organization that began in 2001. Since its time of inception, hundreds of other eating disorder advocates and non-profit organizations have been established in order to raise awareness, eliminate the stigma, provide resources and educate the public on the importance of seeking professional treatment for eating disorders.

New eating disorders on the horizon

In the past decade, more eating disorders have been widely recognized. For example, orthorexia is an eating disorder that is still not recognized in the current version of the DSM but eating disorder therapists currently recognize this as a serious disorder that has resulted in many disordered eating patterns. This term was first coined by Dr. Steven Bratman M.D. in 1996 and has gained a large audience of followers including many professionals in the psychiatry and eating disorder world. Healthy eating is not as “healthy” when it becomes an overwhelming obsessive behavior creating conflicts within the inner self. Unlike individuals with anorexia nervosa who are obsessed with losing weight or preventing weight gain, individuals with orthorexia may not be obsessed with their weight but they are obsessed with healthy eating, however, both of these populations have an underlying problem with self-control.

Hurdles to eating disorder treatment

Despite a 200-year medical history and a detailed classification and description of these diseases, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders has recently stated, “many physicians and other health professionals have not been trained to recognize or treat anorexia.” The current challenge is not in understanding these illnesses but in providing comprehensive medical services to affected patients.

Eating disorder treatment is ever-changing

Eating disorder treatments are constantly evolving over time. Today, the stigma associated with eating disorders is decreasing however with all the new diet trends, it is still a common desire to be skinny and fit into a certain stereotype. With the development of new research and more access to funding, eating disorder treatments are becoming more widely accepted by insurance companies and many eating disorder treatment centers, specifically Center For Discovery, are constantly striving to practice the best treatment approaches according to the guidelines. Eating disorders have come along ways since the Middle Ages, however, we still have a long ways to go.