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Why are eating disorders so hard to treat? - Anees Bahji

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Globally, about 10% of people will experience an eating disorder during their lifetime. And yet, eating disorders are profoundly misunderstood. Misconceptions about everything from symptoms to treatment make it difficult to navigate an eating disorder or support someone you love as they do so. Anees Bahji shares what is— and isn’t— true about eating disorders.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Anees Bahji
  • Director Laura Jayne Hodkin
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace
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Though early accounts of eating disorders are attested from ancient Greece and Rome, their psychological component was not fully recognized until the 1970s when Hilde Bruch published “Eating Disorders: Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa, and the Person Within” detailing several case studies. In it, she argued that abnormal eating and hunger patterns were a direct result of the “absence or paucity of appropriate and confirming responses to signals.” Today, our interpretation of these disorders is much more nuanced (involving psychological, environmental, and genetic factors) and not simply ascribed to conditioning. Still, Bruch’s work was the beginning of a global conversation on the relationship between eating and mental health.

Anorexia was categorized in the DSM-I as a “Psychophysiologic gastrointestinal reaction” similar to peptic ulcers and as a “Special Symptom” of “feeding disturbance” in the DSM-II. However, it wasn’t until 1980, when rates of anorexia and bulimia began to skyrocket, that eating disorders received their own diagnostic category in the DSM-III. Some attribute this increase to the dawn of modern diet culture and a widespread obsession with thinness, which became more prevalent in the 70s and 80s. Conversely, the body-positivity movement, which has gained traction in the past decade, attempts to change how we think about our bodies and our relationship to food.

As our understanding and knowledge of eating disorders evolve, we must continue to lead with the utmost empathy, compassion, and qualitative care. For more information and resources for treatment, visit the following websites:

1.   https://nedic.ca/
2.   https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
3.   https://nied.ca/
4.   https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng69

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Anees Bahji
  • Director Laura Jayne Hodkin
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

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