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Welcome to Project Share's Blog Posts

The Patient Navigation and Medical Education Pillar of Tufts University's Project Share promotes education and health services with the goal of connecting underserved communities to long-term health resources. Our themed monthly blog posts focus on spreading awareness and knowledge on health-related topics. 

December: Epilepsy

How is epilepsy different from a seizure?

What should I do if someone experiences an epileptic seizure in front of me?

What kinds of environments trigger seizures?

Background Information:

Keywords:

  • Tonic: muscles in the body become stiff 

  • Atonic: muscles in the body relax 

  • Myoclonic: short jerking in parts of the body

  • Clonic: periods of shaking or jerking  

What is Epilepsy?

A seizure occurs when your brain experiences excessive electrical activity between neurons that cause temporary abnormal muscular movements or behaviors.

What is a seizure?

A seizure occurs when your brain experiences excessive electrical activity between neurons that cause temporary abnormal muscular movements or behaviors

What is the difference between epilepsy and a seizure?

Everyone has the potential to have a seizure a person with epilepsy is more likely to have a seizure as epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by 2 or more unprovoked seizures that occur at least 24 hours apart. 

Causes of Epilepsy 

Structural causes 

  • Structural abnormality in the brain 

  • Most can be seen by MRI imaging 

Genetic causes 

  • Gene variant can be associated with epilepsy 

  • Could be inherited and could also have environmental causes 

Metabolic causes 

  • Most metabolic disorders are genetically inherited 

  • Results in underactivity or blockage of enzymes 

Infections that cause seizures 

  • Probably the most common cause of epilepsy worldwide, more common in the developing world 

  • Brain infection (examples: cerebral malaria, bacterial meningitis, viral encephalitis, HIV, etc.) 

What to do if someone is having a seizure:

IMPORTANT: call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes

DO's

DO's

  • Stay calm and remain with the person 

  • Comfort the person and speak calmly

  • Ease the person to the floor 

  • Turn the person onto one side to help with breathing 

  • Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp 

  • Put something soft and flat under their head, loosening tight clothing

  • Remove eyeglasses, neckties, large or sharp jewelry

  • Check for a medical bracelet or other emergency information

  • Offer to call a taxi, Uber, or other person to ensure safe travel home
     

DON'T's

  • Do not hold the person down or try to stop the movements 

  • Do not put anything in the person’s mouth 

  • Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths (like CPR).

    • They will likely start breathing again once the seizure stops 

  • Do not offer the person food or water until they are fully alert.

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Types of Seizures

  • A person with epilepsy can have more than one type of seizure 

  • Epilepsy is usually diagnosed after a person has two or more seizures 

  • It can be difficult to tell when someone is having a seizure 

Generalized

  • Affects both parts of the brain

  • Absence (petit mal): can cause rapid blinking or staring into space 

  • Tonic-clonic (grand mal): can make a person cry out, lose consciousness, fall, and/or have muscle jerks and spasms 

Focal/Partial

  • Affects only one area of the brain

  • Simple focal: affect a small part of the brain, can cause twitching or a change in senses (such as strange taste or smell) 

  • Complex focal: can make someone confused or dazed, unresponsive to questions for up to a few minutes 

  • Begins focally in one part of the brain and then spreads with a secondary, generalized seizure

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How to be aware of spaces that might trigger epilepsy 

Common

Triggers

  • Television screens and computers 

  • Video games and TV programs containing flashes, alternating patterns, or different colors 

  • Fire alarms 

  • Strobe lights 

  • Visual patterns (stripes, contrasting colors) 

How can these things cause triggers? 

  • Frequency of the flash 

  • Brightness 

  • Contrast with background lighting 

  • Distance between the viewer and the light source 

  • Wavelength of the light 

  • Whether a person’s eyes are open or closed 

How to minimize triggers in specific spaces? 

  • Avoid flashing lights

  • Cover one eye and turn away from the flashing light. 

  • Sit 2+ ft away from TVs and do not watch it too long

  • Avoid excessive blinking

  • Use a flicker-free screen

  • Wear a monitor glare guard or non-glare glasses 

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November: Diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month!

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Background Information

What is diabetes?

  • Diabetes is caused by body’s inability to create or effectively use insulin, which is produced in the pancreas

  • Insulin helps regulate blood sugar by converting glucose into energy for cells

Diabetes-related Statistics in the United States

How does a diabetes pump work?

Living with diabetes

01

Type I

  • Autoimmune disease  

  • The body does not make enough insulin  

  • Develops rapidly, sudden onset of symptoms  

  • Treatment: insulin injections  

  • No preventative measures 

03

Gestational

  • when body can’t make enough insulin during pregnancy 

  • 2-10% of of pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes in the United States 

02

Type II

  •  Develops slowly  

  • The body cannot use insulin properly although it produces it  

  • Treatment: insulin support  

  • Preventative measures: healthy living  

04

Prediabetes

  • Blood sugar levels are higher than normal

  • Prediabetes testing for children who are overweight or obese and who have one or more other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as: family history, being of a race or ethnicity associated with an increased risk, low birth weight, being born to a mother who had gestational diabetes 

Type II Diabetes 

Risk factors
  • Family history 

  • Age 

  • Overweight 

  • Physically active less than 3 times a week 

  • Heart problems or heightened blood pressure 

Blood sugar spikes
  • How to eat to minimize spikes and insulin resistance? 

  • A blood sugar spike occurs when your blood glucose level rises right after eating

  • For people with diabetes, these normal post-meal reactions are hampered. In people with Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the cells don’t respond to it as they should. This is referred to as insulin resistance. Since the glucose can’t get into cells, the blood sugar level quickly rises. Diabetics (Type 1 or Type 2) who are on insulin therapy typically experience a significant delay in the reduction of blood sugar because it can take up to 15 minutes for the insulin to begin working. Diabetics also either do not produce amylin, which causes their food to be digested much faster. 

  • Simple carbohydrates, like sugary drinks or candy, will be digested and absorbed quickly, which will raise blood sugar more than a mixed meal with protein, high fiber carbohydrates, and fat. Protein, fat, and fiber together will slow digestion and thus create a more blunted rise in blood sugar, with less drastic spikes, or even a steady elevation. All carbohydrates are not created equal, so certain foods like beans and oats, which contain soluble fiber, can help control blood sugar, and strawberries and wild blueberries have been shown to help with insulin resistance as well.  

Symptoms
  • Increased thirst and urination 

  • Unexplained weight loss 

  • Blurred vision  

  • Tiredness and weakness  

Lifestyle changes
  • Eat breakfast 

  • Get enough sleep  

  • Exercise  

  • Eat enough fiber  

  • Food with fiber: beans, whole grains, and fruit 

Here are some easy, blood-sugar friendly snacks! 

Carbohydrates:

  • Whole fruit

  • Whole wheat crackers or pretzels

  • Granola

  • Popcorn

  • Vegetables

Protein:

  • Nuts or trail mix

  • Turkey slices

  • Peanut butter

  • Cheese

  • Hard-boiled eggs

Facing the Cost

Unfortunately, people with diabetes face steep and inequitable costs for necessary medicine. In past years, there have been reports of people with minimal or no insurance plans having to pay as much as $1,000 per month on insulin alone. 

Most recently, the United States introduced the Inflation Reduction Act, which will cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month for seniors with Medicare as of 2023. ​

See the PDF to the right from the American Diabetes Association about this legislation and how you may be impacted by it. 

Making Diabetes More Affordable

Glucose Meters

Some manufacturers offer free glucometers and reduced prices on other diabetes-related products.

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Cheaper Healthcare

Health equity funds, community-based health centers, and national organizations can help reduce the cost of treating diabetes.

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Affordable Pumps

Even if you are uninsured or under insured (your yearly deductible is unattainable), many organizations can assist you is finding cheap or even free insulin pumps.

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How to be a good friend to someone with diabetes...

01

Dexcom Glucose Monitor 

Dexcom glucose monitor connects to a blood sugar app. This is a tracking device that can send notifications when you or a friend's blood sugar is low  

02

Know the signs of a diabetic emergency 

Hunger, clammy skin, profuse sweating, drowsiness, confusion, shaking, and nervousness are all common signs of a diabetic emergency.  

03

Know the signs when blood sugar is too high 

Increased thirst, blurred vision, rapid breathing, and increased urination are all common signs that one's blood sugar is highly elevated.  

What has Tufts Done?

Staff and students at Tufts University have committed to spreading knowledge and awareness of diabetes, and addressing challenges that individuals with diabetes may face. 

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KDSAP

KDSAP trains student volunteers to perform health screening and raise awareness about chronic kidney disease in the local community.

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Dining Services

The StAAR Center provides students with a nutritionist and online menus with nutritional information to best help them plan their meals and blood sugar levels. 

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Diabetes Link

The Diabetes Link provides a community through weekly meetings, fundraisers, club dinners, and meet-ups in the Boston area. 

October: Dental Hygiene

Exploring Dental Health, Do's & Don'ts, Common Myths,

and Dental Health Resources

Why Does this Matter?

October is coming to an end, which brings shorter days and everyone’s favorite spooky holiday. With Halloween around the corner, this sugar-powered night can raise concerns about oral hygiene and dental health for children and adults alike. However, with a few simple steps, we can still celebrate the scary holiday without scary effects on our teeth and gums!

Background

What exactly is "dental hygiene"?

Throughout our lives, we've been told to practice "good dental hygiene". However, it's important to establish what people mean by dental hygiene so we're all on the same page:

Dental hygiene

noun

  1. the state or practice of keeping the mouth cavity in a healthy condition, as by a regular program of brushing and flossing the teeth combined with periodic examinations by a dentist. (Google dictionary)

Now that we know the definition, we can dive into why this topic is so important, especially during Halloween season!

Quick Facts

 

Poor oral hygiene can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, and learning .

Cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss are the three oral conditions that most affect overall health and quality of life 

1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 64 currently has one or more cavities

 

 

Nearly half (46%) of all adults ages 30 years or older show signs of gum disease  

Keeping Teeth Healthy

October is coming to an end, which brings shorter days and everyone’s favorite spooky holiday. With Halloween around the corner, this sugar-powered night can raise concerns about oral hygiene and dental health for children and adults alike. However, with a few simple steps, we can still celebrate the scary holiday without scary effects on our teeth and gums.  

Candy Store Dispensers

Choose chocolate over sour or gummy candies. 

Sticky candy like gummy worms, caramels, or taffy are difficult to remove even after normal brushing and flossing. Similarly, sour candy is very acidic, which can cause breakdown of tooth enamel. 

Helping Hands

Consider donating extra candy. 

Local dental offices often hold candy exchanges and trade non-sugary prizes for excess sweets. Also, some communities host candy buyback programs where children can exchange their candy for a monetary reward! 

https://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/ 

Enjoying Clean Water

Drink extra water.  

Drinking water can rinse away sugar residue or leftover food on your teeth and can balance out the pH levels in your mouth. 

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Brush teeth soon after eating candy. 

Especially with sticky or sugary foods, brushing your teeth after eating candy can prevent cavities by removing harmful bacteria. 

Balancing Rocks

Encourage moderation and be realistic 

Practicing good oral health does not mean swapping out all candy for vegetables at the trick or treat stop. It’s okay to keep candy in the tradition if proper oral hygiene comes with it! 

Do's and Don'ts

As the end of the year and the holiday season approaches, here are some things to keep in mind to keep your mouth happy and smiling!

Tooth Exam

DO

Visit the dentist at least once a year

Image by Ali Inay

DON'T

Brush your teeth immediately after eating

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DO

Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste

Image by Reza Mehrad

DON'T

Smoke or use other tobacco products

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DO

Replace your toothbrush every three months

Brush

DON'T

Use a hard-bristled tooth brush

Myths:

1. Sugar Causes Cavities

2. Brushing Harder = Brushing Better

3. Flossing Is Not Necessary

4. White Teeth = Healthy Teeth

5. You Don’t Need Dental Checkups if You Don’t Have Any Dental Issues

Reality:

The bacteria that eat the sugar cause the cavities, which is why brushing and flossing your teeth to get rid of those bacteria is important.

Brushing Harder causes more trauma to tooth enamel and gum tissue. Can lead to gum recession as well. Stick to 2 minutes of soft brushing!

Flossing is an integral part of maintaining good oral health. One in five Americans never flosses, and only 40% of those who do floss daily. Flossing removes up to 80% of plaque.

Whiter teeth are not always healthier teeth. Teeth begin white and can become discolored or yellow due to staining or damage. Whitening teeth may leave the underlying cause of discoloration unaddressed. 

Like all other diseases, it’s best to catch any issues early on, so it’s best to schedule semi-annual dental exams regardless of if you’re a kid or an adult.

Resources for Finding Dental Care!

1

Office of Oral Health

The Office of Oral Health provides Boston residents with reliable oral health information, program support, training, and educational resources.

2

Malden Dental Associates

Malden Dental Associates specializes in providing the highest quality dental care in general dentistry.  They provide treatment in all areas such as teeth whitening to fillings, crowns, veneers, bridges, root canals, dentures, and surgical extractions. The link below leads to their website and other helpful links they've provided!

3

Dental insurance and care resources

Mass gov has provided resources for applying for dental insurance and accessing dental and hygiene clinics that provides reduced cost oral health care.

October: Breast Cancer Awareness

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Breast Cancer: What To Know

01

What

Knowing the risk factors and warning signs of breast cancer is a crucial step in early diagnosis and prevention! Although some predispositions are out of your control, such as mutations in genes and age, some risk factors could be controlled, such as weight, alcohol consumption, and physical exercise. Breast cancer survival rates are extremely high when the cancer remains in its earlier stages, so early diagnosis and prevention is crucial.

02

Who

1 in 8 women in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer in men still occurs, but is much less common, since men from birth begin with similar breast tissue that just remains undeveloped.

03

When

Breast cancer is mostly asymptomatic, but can be diagnosed early through mammograms before a lump is formed. Mammograms are X-ray images to examine the breast for the early detection of cancer and other breast diseases. Some symptoms of breast cancer may include red skin, thickening skin, and irritation. As a result, it’s super important to schedule routine checkups through mammograms and perform self-breast exams to help us detect, diagnose, and treat breast cancer.

04

Where

While breast cancer’s location is stated in the name, there are more details not commonly discussed. About 80 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts. Breast cancer can begin as non-invasive, where the abnormal cells haven’t spread past their site of origin, but can become invasive and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to surrounding breast tissue. The most advanced stage of breast cancer occurs when cancer cells spread past the breast to other parts of the body.

Ways to be an effective support system for someone who has breast cancer:  

Do's:

  1. Send brief, frequent notes or texts to let them know they are important to you. 

  2. Ask before you visit and be understanding if they cannot see you at the time. 

  3. Talk about things that bring out good feelings, such as sports, religion, travel, or pets. 

  4. Remind them that it’s okay to experience the side effects of chemo.  

  5. Send or bring something to brighten their day: self-care items, favorite snacks, a card, or fun hats/scarves 

  6. Listen and allow them to express how they are feeling rather than focusing on solving issues 

  7. Instead of asking how you can help, take the extra step with a specific action! (i.e cooking meals, helping drive to chemo and other errands, cleaning, picking up prescriptions, etc) 

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Don'ts:

  1. Don’t put pressure on the person for grieving in a certain way that may be different than other 

  2. Don’t treat them like they’re unable to complete certain tasks (especially men) (allow for independence)  

  3. Don’t be afraid to touch, hug, or shake hands 

  4. Don’t offer medical advice, try to solve issues, or offer opinions 

  5. Don’t visit if you are sick or are showing any signs of illness. 

  6. Don’t take things too personally. It is normal for the person to be quieter than usual, to need time alone, or to be angry at times. 

  7. Don’t say you know how they feel. Even if you’ve experienced serious illness before, you don’t know exactly how the person is feeling. This can make the person feel like their situation is not as serious as it is.  

Check Yourself!

How to do a self-screening:

Use hands and eyes to monitor if the look or feel of your breast(s) has changed at all. If you notice any changes in your breast, discuss these with your doctor. Though most breast changes detected during a self-exam for breast awareness have benign causes, some changes may signal something serious, such as breast cancer. 

Mental Health

Mental health influences our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we handle stress and make choices. Positive mental health is important for reducing the risks of many physical or psychological health problems. The status of your mental health can change over time depending on different environmental factors, and can significantly affect your life in various ways. As a result, it’s crucial to learn the warning signs, risk factors, and learn how to cope with different situations that affect your mental health so that you can stay healthy.  

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MAY: MENTAL HEALTH 

Oftentimes, mental health is discounted as a contributing factor to our actual health. Our mental health can be taken less seriously than our physical health. Some people struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues may be scared to ask for help or may not even think getting help is worth it, out of fear of being judged and the overall stigma surrounding mental health. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Project SHARE wants to remind everyone that good mental health is absolutely crucial to a healthy lifestyle. We encourage anyone and everyone to reach out to resources like therapy if needed or even just talking with friends when you feel your mental health start to decline. It can be hard to ask for help and even harder to find the motivation to show up to appointments or to keep reaching out to friends, but the feeling of gaining back control over your lifestyle will be worth it! 

Showing any sign of struggling internally has been framed as a sign that I was weak. Growing up with Asian parents, I was always told that “it’s normal to feel sad” and that “it’s normal to hate some parts of your body.” To them, mental health was not important, since it doesn’t directly contribute to my success in their eyes. However, when I felt low mentally, I could feel myself falling behind in school, losing interest in hobbies, and failing to put effort into relationships that I value. These are all aspects that contribute to my version of “success.” Everyone has their insecurities and mental health issues, which makes it that much more important that everyone receives guidance on how to accept themselves to live a healthier lifestyle.  

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When and Where to Reach Out

Emergent Care

- 911

- 988 (Suicide and Crisis Lifeline)

- 1 (800) 662-4357 (Substance abuse and mental health services) 

- 1 (800) 985 5990 (Disaster distress helpline)

- 741741 (Crisis textline)

1

2

Finding Providers

- Different types of providers: psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, etc. 

- What to talk to your provider about: concerns and conditions, counseling opportunities, health insurance coverage, etc. 

3

Warning Signs

- Changes in appetite

- Disruption of sleep 

- Engaging in risky behavior 

-Substance abuse 

- Excessive worry, fear, or sadness

- Suicidal thoughts

Ways to Deal with Mental Health

Exercise

Going on a long walk
going to the gym, or
joining a workout class
can help clear our minds 
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Breathing

Breathe in for 4 seconds
Hold for 7 seconds 
Exhale to the count of 8
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5 things I can see
4 things I can touch 
3 things I can hear 
2 things I can smell 
1 thing I can taste 

Watching Movie or Show

"Focusing on my favorite TV show or movie always helps to distract me for a while until I feel calm enough to address my feelings in a collected state of mind." 
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Reaching Out

Talking to friends and family takes some of the weight off our shoulders. Remember you're never a burden and they will want to support you. 
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Helping Others into Care: QPR

Q: Question: Ask the indivdiaul how they're doing to share your care and concerns. 
P: Persuade: Talk to the person about the benefits of seeking care for professional support and resources. 
R: Refer: Support the individual in seeking out care by helping them search and attend to care. 

women's health

In today’s society, women’s health is often overlooked, with effects ranging from misinformation about reproductive health to underrepresentation in medical research. Due to sociocultural discrimination, these are common experiences for women, preventing them from receiving quality health services and increasing their vulnerability to receiving adequate education and resources. 

March: women's health

In today’s society, women’s health is often overlooked, with effects ranging from misinformation about reproductive health to underrepresentation in medical research. According to a Forbes report in February 2023, around half of women aged 18-35 have had negative experiences in healthcare. Whether it’s getting dismissed by providers who say they’re irrational or the doctor simply not believing their complaints, women are struggling to voice their concerns and receive effective treatment to this day. Due to sociocultural discrimination, these are common experiences for women, preventing them from receiving quality health services and increasing their vulnerability to receiving adequate education and resources. 

"For a long time, I didn’t know much about the various forms of contraception, how they work, or what effects they can have on my mood and health."

In 2019, at least 42% of women in the United States were reported to be on some form of contraception, whether that be the pill, implant, or permanent sterilization. That’s almost half of the female population nationally. Reproductive health can be a sensitive topic, intimate and vulnerable, especially so in today’s political climate.

The Massachusetts state government has implemented a Women’s Health Network (WHN), which works to encourage women to have breast and cervical cancer screenings and provides case management. funded by federal and state resources. This program is funded by both state and federal resources. While the WHN is an excellent initiative to increase awareness and action on women’s health, it appears that the state lacks any other state government-funded women’s health resources. Project SHARE acknowledges the insufficient knowledge surrounding women’s health as well as the government’s disregard to meet women’s basic needs. We offer these accessible health resources that relate to women’s health and reproductive health! 

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Tufts University will be home to the Center for Black Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice, one of the first of its kind in the nation. The center will be run by Dr. Amutah-Onukagha, who also serves as the founder and director of the MOTHER Lab and the associate professor and assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. 

Click on the images below to view additional accessible resources around the greater Boston area!

April: Eating Disorder Awareness

What is an Eating Disorder? 

 

Eating disorders are psychological conditions that impacting someones' relationship with food. There are many different types, and each involves an extreme changes to behavior. Eating disorders impact a diverse population, and require strong support systems to recover from.  

There are many different types of eating disorders, including, ​​Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating disorder, and ARFID. Click the buttons below to learn more about each disorder! 

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Common Myths about Eating Disorders

Myth 

Only skinny people can have EDs and Anorexia is the only eating disorder ​

Fact 

There are many kinds of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and ARFID, each of which have different symptoms. Also, you can have an eating disorder at any weight. Fewer than 6% of people with anorexia  are medically diagnosed as “underweight." 

Myth:

​Eating Disorders only affect women ​

Fact 

Eating disorders affect 6.6 million males in the United States. However, due in large part to cultural and gender bias, they are much less likely to be assessed or diagnosed for their eating disorder and even less likely to seek treatment.

Myth: 

​Eating disorders are a matter of choice, people at a normal weight cannot have an eating disorder,

Fact 

Eating disorders often appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life.  Eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors, and are a mental illness not a choice. 

         Signs of an Eating Disorder

  • Dramatic or Frequent Fluctuations in Weight 

  • Feelings of Guilt after Eating

  • Frequently Weighing Food ​

  • Expressing Excessive Body Dysfunction 

  • Feeling out of control around food; purging; restricting food intake

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  • Social Isolation, depression, anxiety​

  • Preoccupation with weight, food, diets, body image, exercise or nutrition

  • Eliminating foods from their diet; eating in secret; hiding food

  • Extreme "picky" eating, fear of illness, sensory issues

Click above to use a confidential, eating disorder self-screening tool if you think you are struggling with an eating disorder. 

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Do educate yourself about eating disorders. The more you know about what your friend or family member is going through, the better you can support them.

 

Do ask to be involved in your loved one’s treatment. One of the most important components of eating disorder recovery is developing a support network of people who understand how to help. Many people with eating disorders use it as a way to cope with difficult emotions, thoughts, or events.

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​​Don't talk about or evaluate your body or other people’s bodies in front of someone in recovery. This goes for compliments as well as criticisms.

 

Don't give up hope. Sustained and permanent recovery from an eating disorder is possible. The road to being fully recovered is not easy, but the presence of loving supporters is essential to progress on that journey.

Dos and Don'ts if someone you love is struggling with an Eating Disorder 

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Seeking Help and Treatment for an Eating Disorder 

The first step to seeking help can be to notify your health care provider, who can refer you to a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, who has experience treating eating disorders.

Other Resources include: 

If you are struggling, always remember you are not alone, and it is possible to get help. 

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