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Feb 1, 2024
Approximately 1 million Canadians will suffer from an eating disorder at any given time. There is no single cause of eating disorders. Despite stereotypes and myths, eating disorders do not have a “look”. Eating disorders affect people of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, socioeconomic status, and abilities. Eating disorders are complex and multi-faceted, their development can be influenced by an individual’s personality, genetic make-up, and biochemical factors in combination with their lived experience, socio-cultural, and familial context.
While eating disorders disproportionately affect people who identify as women and girls, approximately 1 in 4 people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and 1 in 3 living with binge eating disorder identify as boys and men. Further, people from 2SLGBTQIA+ communities are more likely to struggle with an eating disorder. Counter to stereotypes, people who are racialized are as likely to experience eating disorders and may face additional barriers to treatment.
Across Canada, there continues to be an unprecedented increase in eating disorders related emergency department visits and hospital admission amongst young people aged 10-17. Prior to the pandemic, the prevalence of people living with eating disorders in Canada ranged from 2.2% to 4.6% (Galmiche et al. 2019). Referrals for Eating Disorders programs at the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington have tripled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This had led to an increase in wait times for service, at a time when these supports are greatly needed in our community. Accessing effective and timely treatment is essential for people with eating disorders given they have the highest overall mortality rate of any mental illness, with estimates between 10-15%.
Awareness and education on eating disorders is key to prevention, early intervention and in helping those living with an Eating Disorder to connect with the support and treatment they need to recover. Given the importance of prevention and early intervention, the Ministry of Health is funding a new arm of eating disorders services that will be focused on promotion, prevention, and early intervention for eating disorders. You can learn more about this initiative at ED-PPEI (ocoped.ca) or About EDO-P – BANA – Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association.
Each year, organizations across Canada host Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) from February 1st to 8th. Join us in a national week of action focused on educating the public about eating disorders. “It is a time to escalate awareness of the impact of eating disorders, the dangerous stereotypes and myths, and the supports available for people living with or affected by them” (NEDIC, 2023).
If you have concerns that yourself or a loved one may be experiencing an eating disorder can find more information from Body Brave, a charity providing accessible eating disorder treatment and support, community training and education at www.bodybrave.ca.
The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington is part of a provincial network for eating disorders, offering coordinated and evidence-based services. CMHA WW eating disorders program offers comprehensive assessment, and team-based care with a nurse practitioner, dietician, and therapist. Treatment approaches include Family-Based Therapy approach for our Child and Adolescent population, and a group-based treatment approach for adults. A volunteer-led family and friends’ group is also available for education and support. To learn more, visit: Services for Eating Disorders – CMHA Waterloo Wellington (cmhaww.ca)