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Three Facts Families Should Know About Eating Disorders

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Eating disorders aren’t your typical dinner table conversation.  However, studies suggest more people die of anorexia than any other mental health disorder. In a recent Twitter chat on eating disorders hosted by ABC News’ chief health medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, several other experts identified three important facts that families should know about eating disorders.

Anorexia, Bulimia Aren’t the Only Eating Disorders

While anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known eating disorders, tweeters pointed out that binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified, or EDNOS, are actually more common.

Patients with EDNOS have symptoms similar to those with anorexia and bulimia, such as distorted thoughts about their bodies and unhealthy eating behaviors, but do not fully meet the strict definitions of either.

EDNOS are sometimes dismissed as “not being real eating disorders,” but they carry the same risks as anorexia and bulimia. The consequences of eating disorders discussed in the chat include physical risks and mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It Often Takes a Family Member or Friend to Get Treatment Started

Denial is common in eating disorders. Patients fail to recognize the seriousness of low weight and do not always seek treatment on their own.

Many patients in recovery tweeted stories of family members and friends who recognized the symptoms of an eating disorder and intervened.  Warning signs discussed in the chat highlighted odd behaviors and rituals surrounding food, rather than weight loss. Look for a preoccupation with food, and inward emotional signals.

“Increasing isolation around meals is a red flag for eating disorders,” warned NYU Langone Medical.

‘Talk About It, Talk About It More’

“Talk about it, talk about it more,” tweeted Dawn Matusz, a patient who currently started treatment for binge eating disorder.  ”Bring it into the open, and it can no longer hide.”

Experts, advocates, and patients alike stressed the importance of talking about eating disorders, and the earlier, the better, as early intervention helps with recovery.  ”Err on the side of over-discussing,” tweeted Dr. Russell Marx of NEDA.

Even once a patient starts treatment, it is important to keep talking because family and social support are essential to recovery.  Eating disorders thrive in secrecy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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