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Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week (BIEDAW)

In Australia, BIEDAW happens in early September of every year. It is a week that aims to shine a light on body image disturbances and eating disorders. This helps to highlight the critical need to keep working towards greater community awareness in order to improve responses, early identification, and reduce stigma.

Flowers

Eating disorders are not a choice or attention seeking behaviours. Eating disorders are serious illnesses stemming from a combination of biological and psychosocial mechanisms and can be associated with dangerous, potentially fatal, medical complications. They are affecting about 1 in 20 Australians, and their lifetime prevalence is around 8%

There are different types of eating disorders, which are traditionally classified in accordance with symptoms. The most common eating disorder diagnoses are binge eating disorder (BED) and other specified eating disorder (OSFED; e.g., atypical anorexia). While anorexia nervosa (AN) is the most commonly discussed eating disorder diagnosis in our society and media, it remains however one of the least prevalent. Indeed, contrary to popular belief, less than 6% of all people with eating disorders are deemed medically 'underweight'. Atypical anorexia, which falls under the broader diagnostic category of OSFED, is associated with the same medical risks of anorexia nervosa (AN), regardless of weight status. 

Up to 37% of people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (AN) are also autistic, while ADHD is correlated with a 3 to 6 times greater risk of developing eating disorders. While autism is often associated with restrictive eating disorders and ADHD with bingeing and/or purging, it is worth noting that autistic people and ADHDers can be affected by a wide spectrum of eating difficulties. In addition, autism and ADHD often co-occur, meaning that neither autism or ADHD can be neatly categorised in terms of eating disorder type association.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a diagnostic category that was introduced in 2013 with the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). ARFID describes an eating disorder that involves food restriction not related to fear of weight gain, as is the case for anorexia nervosa (AN). Up to 21% of autistic people are thought to be affected by ARFID. However, there needs to be more research about this topic. Although there is less research and data regarding Tourette syndrome, it is shown to correlate with a higher risk of developing eating disorders, similar to autism.

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