Help is Available
Do you find that you are constantly worried about the amount of food you eat?
Do you beat yourself up when you eat something unhealthy?
Do you find yourself being unable to control the amount of food you eat?
Are you having difficulty with your body image?
Have you thought about getting help, but didn't know where to start?
These are just some questions that may indicate an eating disorder or concern. Eating disorders affect people from all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities and sexualities.
EATING DISORDERS HELPLINES
Contact the NEDA Helpline for support, resources, and treatment options for yourself or a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder. Helpline volunteers are trained to help you find the support and information you need. Reach out today!
Monday through Thursday: 8am to 8pm CST
Friday: 8am to 4pm CST
Monday through Thursday: 10am to 8pm CST
Friday: 10am to 4pm CST
Translation services are available on the phone.
Monday through Thursday: 2pm to 5pm CST
Friday: 12pm to 4pm CST
Standard text messaging rates may apply.
24/7 Hour Crisis Text Line
If you are in a crisis and need help immediately, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.
People of Color
Eating disorders have historically been associated with heterosexual, young, white, cis-gendered females, but in reality, they affect people from all demographics of all ethnicities at similar rates.
RESEARCH ON PEOPLE OF COLOR AND EATING DISORDERS:
People of color – especially African Americans – are significantly less likely to receive help for their eating issues.
Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binging and purging.
Hispanic people were significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers. The researchers also reported a trend towards a higher prevalence of binge eating disorder in all minority groups.
Asian, Black, Hispanic and Caucasian youth all reported attempting to lose weight at similar rates, while among of Native American adolescents, 48.1% were attempting weight loss.
People of color with self-acknowledged eating and weight concerns were significantly less likely than white participants to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms, despite similar rates of eating disorder symptoms across ethnic groups.
Barriers to Treatment
Though treating eating disorders should be individualized, most of the research has been geared toward treating white people
Further research is needed to determine what specific treatments are most effective for people of color with eating disorders
Stereotyping and cultural differences can hinder diagnosing or seeking treatment for eating disorders
Cultural mistrust concerning being open with a therapist of a different racial/ethnic background
Fear of shame or stigmatization
People with disabilities experience unique stressors that may contribute to the development and maintenance of an eating disorder.
Disabilities are conditions that significantly impact or limit one or more major life activity. They can be physical, emotional, or intellectual; while disabilities are often visually apparent, many people live with significant disabilities that are unnoticeable to others.
ABLEISM AND CULTURE
People living with disabilities contend with a cultural bias that views them as fundamentally different and inferior to the non-disabled majority.
This prejudice, oppression, and exclusion of people with disabilities is known as ableism, which tends to make the world feel quite inaccessible and unwelcoming to people with disabilities.
Although people with disabilities make up over 12% of the population, they are noticeably absent from popular culture. Only about 2% of TV and film characters are depicted with disabilities, and those characters are almost exclusively portrayed by able-bodied actors.
The media continues to largely present and glorify a very homogeneous view of body size and shape, strongly skewing toward a tall and slender build.
For most people, the bodily proportions over-represented in the media are dangerously unattainable
People with disabilities often experience the same pressures to meet these body standards and are as likely as their able-bodied counterparts to develop eating disorders and disordered body image.
AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Some estimates hold that as much as 20% of people with eating disorders have autism
Research suggests that adolescent biological females with anorexia may be more likely to exhibit elevated autistic traits such as difficulty with empathy, tendency to focus on oneself, and strong systemizing traits characterized by inflexibility and the drive to analyze and develop systems driven by rules.
Those with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses may have a unique vulnerability to developing anorexia because they may be directing the systemization toward managing food or obsessing over body weight.
Researchers have shown that people with ASD seem to be at a greater risk for developing binge eating disorder, pica, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, all three of which are much more common among this population.
BARRIERS TO SUPPORT AND TREATMENT
Difficulty finding appropriate help due to limited specialists dealing with feeding and eating disorders who also have expertise with disabilities.
Treatment for an eating disorder can be quite costly, as is living life with a disability. People with disabilities frequently spend more than those not living with disabilities. Finding affordable care to treat an eating disorder can be extremely difficult, as recovering from an eating disorder often takes years of ongoing treatment.
Simply getting from place to place can be a challenge for someone with a disability, making it especially challenging to access care in the traditional way.
Medical professionals may overlook signs and symptoms of disordered eating, as they are often overshadowed by, or masked by, other symptoms of the disability.
People with physical disabilities are regularly urged to diet and lose weight by medical professionals, often in derogatory or shaming ways, with the intention of increasing mobility.
Depending on the type and severity of the eating disorder, many treatment programs require patients to attend for several hours a day, which could cause access issues for someone with a disability.
LGBTQ+ identifying individuals experience unique stressors that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
RESEARCH ON LGBTQ+ PEOPLE AND EATING DISORDERS
Research shows that, beginning as early as 12, gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than heterosexual peers.
Gay male identifying people are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.
Gay male identifying people were seven times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual, cis-gendered males.
Lesbian, bisexual, or mostly heterosexual, cis-gendered females were about twice as likely to report binge-eating at least once per month in the last year.
Elevated rates of binge-eating and purging by vomiting or laxative abuse was found for people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or “mostly heterosexual” in comparison to their heterosexual peers.
Black and Latinx LGBs have at least as high a prevalence of eating disorders as white LGBs.
A sense of connectedness to the gay community was related to fewer current eating disorders, which suggests that feeling connected to the gay community may have a protective effect against eating disorders.
BARRIERS TO SUPPORT AND TREATMENT
Lack of culturally-competent treatment, which addresses the complexity of unique sexuality and gender identity issues
Lack of support from family and friends
Insufficient eating disorders education among LGBTQ+ resource providers who are in a position to detect and intervene.
Many LGBTQ+ people still remain isolated in communities that do not offer safe resources.
Involvement in organized sports can offer many benefits, such as improved self-esteem and body image, and encouragement for individuals to remain active throughout their lives. Athletic competition, however, can also be a factor contributing to severe psychological and physical stress.
When the pressures of athletic competition are added to an existing cultural emphasis on thinness, the risks increase for athletes to develop disordered eating.
RISK FACTORS FOR ATHELTES
Sports that emphasize appearance, weight requirements or muscularity. For example: gymnastics, diving, bodybuilding or wrestling.
Sports that focus on the individual rather than the entire team. For example: gymnastics, running, figure skating, dance or diving, versus teams sports such as basketball or soccer.
Endurance sports such as track and field/running, swimming.
Overvalued belief that lower body weight will improve performance.
Training for a sport since childhood or being an elite athlete.
Family dysfunction (including parents who live through the success of their child in sport)
Families with eating disorders
History of physical or sexual abuse
Peer, family and cultural pressures to be thin, and other traumatic life experiences.