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Eating disorders are complex and perplexing mental health disorders. Eating disorders affect individuals of all genders, ages, sexual orientations, and ethnic backgrounds. They affect 600,000 to 990,000 individuals at any given time in Canada (1). Eating Disorders can be fatal and often can go unrecognized. By knowing the warning signs in our loved ones or ourselves, we could improve recognition.
Signs and symptoms of eating disorders vary. Warning signs to watch for include, but are not limited to: "refusal to gain, or maintain a normal weight, intense fear of gaining weight, restricting intake of food, repeated episodes of binge-eating followed by compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications, fasting for extended periods of time, and excessive exercise" (2). It is important to note that eating disorders are often accompanied by other mental health conditions. Ensuring you or your loved one has access to a family doctor is essential.
If you or a loved one are experiencing signs and symptoms of an eating disorder or have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, getting support for both physical and mental well-being is vital in recovery success. Resources and services are as follows:
1) In Southern Alberta, eating disorders are referred to the Calgary Eating Disorders Program. As per the 2018 Alberta Health Services Referral Pathway (3), this is a service offered across three sites: The Richmond Road Diagnostic & Treatment Center, Alberta Children's Hospital and Foothills Medical Centre.
2) In the Medicine Hat-Brooks region Patti Wagman Counselling and Consulting is a private counselling practice who has many years working with individuals who are experiencing an eating disorder. She can be reached at 403-580-8022.
3) The National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC) also has a toll-free help line: 1-866-633-4220 (4)
4) Alberta Healthy Living Program, through Alberta Health Services, offers a program to which physicians may refer patients with eating disorders for dietary and counselling supports. (PLEASE LINK TO OUR LOCAL RESOURCES PAGE)
If you or someone you know may require help managing any of the warning signs above, please connect with a healthcare professional. Know that there are services to access and you are not alone. This website offers further information on where to find local supports (under the "Local Resources" link above this article) and how to find a family doctor (under the "Need a Family Doctor" link above).
1. LeBlanc Helene. Eating disorders among girls and women in Canada: report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, pp. 8-9 (2014). Ottawa, ON.
2. Enright, C.R, & Ibhrahim, K (2014). Eating Disorders. In Varacolis's Canadian Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing (1st ed., pp. 320-341). Toronto, ON: Elsevier.
3. Eating Disorders Referral Quick Reference (2018). Retrieved January 16, 2020 from https://albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/hp/arp/if-hp-arp-cz-eatingdisorders-qr.pdf
4. Eating Disorders & Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2020 from https://nedic.ca/general-information/