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Dallas Mayor, Texas Health Dallas Make Proclamation for Eating Disorders Awareness
02/07/2010

DALLAS — Mayor Tom Leppert proclaimed Feb. 7-13 Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Dallas, in honor of the national campaign to raise awareness about the devastating mental illnesses that strike young women in North Texas and throughout the country.

Texas Health Dallas Eating Disorders team
Texas Health Dallas Eating Disorders Team
Click photo to download hi-res image

The proclamation was made in support of the Eating Disorders Program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, which treats and sponsors research for those suffering from the deadly conditions. Eating disorders experts at Texas Health Dallas say what’s most troubling about the issue is that those who suffer from eating disorders are often ashamed, which cloaks the disease in secrecy.

“If someone is diagnosed with cancer or asthma or a heart problem, there’s not that sense of shame that comes with having an eating disorder,” said Dr. Jim Harris, manager of the eating disorders program at Texas Health Dallas. “The problem is that that by pushing the issue under the table we’re not addressing it—and these patients, many of whom are young women, aren’t getting the help they need.”

The consequences can be deadly.

Eating disorders are among the most dangerous health issues facing American women, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. They’re the most deadly mental illness. The mortality rate of eating disorders is 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among females ages 15-24 in the general population. An eating disorder-related death is most commonly due to suicide, heart failure, or other medical complications associated with the condition.

Dr. Jim Harris
Dr. Jim Harris, manager of the eating disorders program at Texas Health Dallas, discussed patient care with other clinicians at a recent meeting.
Click photo to download hi-res image

Due to lack of awareness, Harris said, many deaths with an underlying cause of an eating disorder may get reported with no reference to the eating disorder. More than 10 million women in the United States struggle with an eating disorder, with 80 percent of American women overall dissatisfied with their appearance.

“Eating disorders are complex, over-determined illnesses that appear to be created in the interplay of genetic pre-disposition and cultural pressures,” Harris added. “We want to raise awareness about these conditions so that people are better able to identify them and seek help.”

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, friends and family should note the following:

  • Warning signs of an eating disorder include dramatic weight loss, excessive exercise, skipping meals, being extremely fussy about food, and food "disappearing." Be aware of frequent trips to the bathroom and evidence of laxative use.
  • Anorexia is a serious and potentially lethal illness characterized by the relentless pursuit of thinness, emaciation and the obsessive fear of gaining weight. Personality traits, such as perfectionism and anxiety, are often present in childhood before the eating disorder develops.
  • Bulimia involves recurrent binge eating followed by intentional purging or vomiting, which is done to compensate for the excessive intake of the food and to prevent weight gain. Purging can include inappropriate use of laxatives, diuretics or other medication, excessive physical exercise, or fasting.

About the Eating Disorders Program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
The Texas Health Dallas Eating Disorders Program is a multidisciplinary program that uses a variety of specialists to treat patients with eating disorders. Services include: Inpatient and outpatient levels of care; psychiatric evaluation and intervention; therapeutic meals; medical supervision; relapse prevention; living skills education; nutritional counseling; aftercare support and a host of other tools. For more information about the Eating Disorders Program at Texas Health Dallas, call 214-345-7355.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 866-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Dallas.

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