Combating Eating Disorders


According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Michigan, 1 in 20 people will be affected by an eating disorder at some point in their life. Without treatment, care, and attention, these eating disorders can lead to severe mental and physical repercussions and will likely provoke serious health issues later on in life. While there are programs such as the Michigan Medicine Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program which helps patients between the ages of 8 and 24 combat these disorders, there are many kids and young adults throughout the state that aren't getting the attention they need.

To provide some more information on these disorders, it's important to highlight the three most prevelant conditions:

  • Anorexia nervosa: " A person with anorexia will deny themselves food to the point of self-starvation as she obsesses about weight loss. With anorexia, a person will deny hunger and refuse to eat, practice binge eating and purging behaviors or exercise to the point of exhaustion as she attempts to limit, eliminate or “burn” calories. The emotional symptoms of anorexia include irritability, social withdrawal, lack of mood or emotion, not able to understand the seriousness of the situation, fear of eating in public and obsessions with food and exercise. Often food rituals are developed or whole categories of food are eliminated from the person’s diet, out of fear of being “fat” (NAMI).
  • Bulimia nervosa: "Someone living with bulimia will feel out of control when binging on very large amounts of food during short periods of time, and then desperately try to rid himself of the extra calories using forced vomiting, abusing laxatives or excessive exercise. This becomes a repeating cycle that controls many aspects of the person’s life and has a very negative effect both emotionally and physically. People living with bulimia are usually normal weight or even a bit overweight. The emotional symptoms of bulimia include low self-esteem overly linked to body image, feelings of being out of control, feeling guilty or shameful about eating and withdrawal from friends and family (NAMI."
  • Binge Eating Disorder: "A person with BED losses control over her eating and eats a very large amount of food in a short period of time. She may also eat large amounts of food even when she isn’t hungry or after she is uncomfortably full. This causes her to feel embarrassed, disgusted, depressed or guilty about her behavior. A person with BED, after an episode of binge eating, does not attempt to purge or exercise excessively like someone living with anorexia or bulimia would. A person with binge eating disorder may be normal weight, overweight or obese."

Each of these conditions requires different care programs, and each patient may require different levels of help which support different needs. While there are care facilities throughout the state, not all of them are easily accessible, and many individuals dealing with these disorders conceal them or do not address that they have a disorder at all. Here are a few questions to consider as we identify solutions to continue fighting this issue in Michigan:

  • Are there enough treatment programs in the state? If not, what can the government do to reach more people needing treatment?
  • Are the programs that are available the most effective means of recovery?
  • Which age demographic is in most need of help? How do we access the most amount of those people?
  • What would it cost the state to improve it's ability to solve this problem?