Eating disorders are far more complex than they sound.
The National Institute on Mental Health calls them “serious disturbances” that are associated with “a wide range of adverse psychological, physical and social consequences.” They’re not lying.
Eating disorders can turn fatal; patients with anorexia and bulimia can do a tremendous amount of physical damage to themselves by starvation and purging. Treatment is complicated by the strong psychological issues that often drive eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) reports the conditions are complex, with many potential developmental, psychological and biological causes behind them. Even societal pressures can trigger these disorders: How often are people bombarded with idealized body images each day?
The problem is treatment costs money, and it’s not always covered by insurance. In 2008, two teenagers decided to do something about it and help those who couldn’t afford the help they needed. The organization they founded, Project HEAL, has sent 36 patients to treatment.
Treatment helped – and gave them a mission
Project HEAL’s founders, Liana Rosenman and Kristina Saffran, met while receiving treatment for anorexia nervosa when they were both 15. Both had developed anorexia at very young ages – Saffran was diagnosed at age 10 and was hospitalized four times during her first year in high school. While in treatment, they saw firsthand the financial pressures treatment can have on patients; Project HEAL’s website reports treatment for eating disorders can run above $30,000 a month.
“But I was lucky, with an awesome support group, top-class treatment and frankly, a great insurance plan, I got there,” Saffran told the Huffington Post. “Full recovery from this disease is possible. That said, the journey that enabled me to get my life back cost upwards of $200,000 – something that most Americans simply can’t afford.”
It’s a problem Project HEAL keeps running into – the organization receives around 500 applications a year from people willing to enter treatment for eating disorders, but they’ve lacked the funds to give support to every applicant. This may change; the Huffington Post recently reported the organization raised over $500,000 after a San Francisco benefit gala. It is money that will go towards helping those who want treatment receive it.
NEDA reports 20 million women – and 10 million men – will have a “clinically significant” eating disorder at least once in their life. It can be easy to stigmatize eating disorders as problems of privilege or as a problem that only affects women, but they are serious diseases that can and do kill if left untreated.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week kicks off Feb. 22. The week seeks to inform more people about the danger eating disorders pose to health, as well as spurring patients and those around them to seek treatment for their diseases. Sovereign Health of California recently introduced its own eating disorders program. Based out of our San Clemente headquarters, patients can receive effective, scientifically-proven treatment for anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia.
If you or a loved one is dealing with an eating disorder, it’s critical they receive help immediately. For more information about our program, please call our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at firstname.lastname@example.org.