Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Alsana provides treatment, support for people with eating disorders

Alsana provides treatment and support for people with eating disorders.
Published: Mar. 4, 2023 at 9:04 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Every day, eating disorders impact millions of Americans. Eating disorders are treatable psychological conditions that involve serious changes in your normal eating behavior, according to the National Alliance for Eating Disorders.

According to the Eating Disorders Coalition, about 9% of Alabamians, which is more than 430,000 people, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.

Some common types of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), and Pica.

Risk factors include having a close relative with an eating disorder, history of dieting, bullying, weight stigma, and body dissatisfaction.

While there are several types of eating disorders, those who are struggling with them will not always fit into a specific diagnosis, said Leslie Plaia, the Alabama Director of Clinical Services at Alsana Eating Disorder Treatment Center.

“I think that, often times, it’s what deters individuals from getting help,” said Plaia. People may think “‘I don’t actually meet this criteria, and so, maybe I don’t have a problem,’” said Plaia.

WAFF's Jasmyn Cornell reporting

Eating disorders are also surrounded by a large number of myths and misconceptions, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). This can also cause people to struggle with taking an eating disorder diagnosis seriously.

Many people believe that eating disorders only impact women; however, eating disorders do not discriminate. They can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

About one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male, and due to culture bias, they are less likely to seek treatment for their eating disorder, according to NEDA.

LGBTQ+ people also face challenges that may put them at greater risk of developing an eating disorder.

“Lots of research indicating that there’s a greater incidence of eating disorders and disordered eating patterns with that community versus the heterosexual and cisgender counterparts,” said Plaia. “So, a lot of that is related to the different stressors like stigma, discrimination, internalized homophobia, or transphobia.”

Plaia adds if an individual is experiencing the need to conceal their sexuality or their gender identity, that is going to impact their development of an eating disorder.

Many individuals with eating disorders face barriers to treatment and support. Health professionals say barriers for members of the LGBTQ+ community may include a lack of culturally-competent treatment and a lack of support from family and friends.

If you’re experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating patterns, it’s important to seek professional help, said Plaia.

She also says if you need support, please reach out to Alsana Eating Recovering Center.

“Alsana in Alabama, we have residential care. So again, the place where somebody would come to spend the night. We also have outpatient services. We have our partial hospitalization program and our intensive outpatient program. We offer support groups through alumni programs for any of our individuals who have come through,” said Plaia.

Plaia says it’s important to know that recovery from eating disorders is possible.

The Alsana location in Huntsville is accepting client inquiries. If you’re interested in receiving support, you can contact 1-866-267-7676.

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