Department of Health urges awareness, education of eating disorders

    The PA Department of Health recently urged all Pennsylvanians to support those affected by eating disorders by being aware of the signs and symptoms, as well as offering encouragement and connecting them to treatment.

    “The warning signs of eating disorders vary, but generally include behaviors and attitudes that are fixated on weight loss, dieting or control of foods, bingeing or purging,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Eating disorders are serious illnesses and are not lifestyle choices but are potentially life-threatening and impact all aspects of a person’s health. Anyone looking for support, information, referrals and guidance about eating disorders, either for themselves or a loved one, can contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931.2237.”

    There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.

    Eating disorders affect individuals regardless of body shape, weight, gender identity and sexual orientation, ability, religion, socioeconomic status or stage of body acceptance.

    While eating disorders are typically thought to primarily affect young women, in recent years hospitalizations involving eating disorders for men have increased by 53%.

    In addition, 13% of women over the age of 50 exhibit eating disorder behaviors.

    “Many of us are unaware of the devastating mental and physical consequences of these illnesses, as well as the attitudes and behaviors that shape them,” Dr. Levine said. “It is important that parents, educators, healthcare providers and community members are aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders.”

    These illnesses usually appear in adolescence, and are associated with substantial psychological problems, including depression, substance abuse and suicide.

    The prevalence of eating disorders has continued to increase and is one of the top five most common illnesses among American teens.

    One person dies every 62 minutes as a direct result of an eating disorder.

    Earlier this year, Governor Tom Wolf introduced a multi-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign, “Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters,” aimed at expanding resources and overall support of mental health and related health care priorities.

    Reach Out PA will address many recommendations for improving mental health services.

    Those who may be suffering from psychological problems associated with an eating disorder need to know it is okay to not be okay, and that there are resources and individuals to help them.  

    For more information on eating disorders, and other health issues, visit the Department of Health website at or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.