News23ABC In-Depth


Breaking the Stigma: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, the second leading cause of death among people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa is suicide.
Posted: 7:20 PM, Mar 03, 2023
Updated: 2023-03-03 22:20:32-05
food eating (file)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Millions of Americans suffer from eating disorders. ED can be triggered by social media influence or by personal issues, and it's important for people to know that there are resources in their community that can help. One place people might not expect to find help for disordered eating is their local CVS Pharmacy.

Deputy Chief Psychiatric officer for CVS Health Deborah Fernandez-Turner says many people don't have a true understanding of what an eating disorder actually is, and that can result in people shying away from getting help due to the perception of being stigmatized.

"It is a potentially lethal disorder, and we know the sooner someone gets help, the better their potential outcome is," said Fernandez-Turner.

According to Fernandez-Turner, one place to start getting help with an ED is CVS's Minute Clinic, where therapists are available either in-person or virtually including nurse practitioners to help devise a treatment plan.

"So someone can connect with a nurse practitioner at Minute Clinic as well. If that therapist isn't available, that nurse practitioner can also be a great connection to help start and create a treatment plan," said Fernandez-Turner.

According to research by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 9 percent of the U.S. population struggles with eating disorders, and eating disorders are among the most lethal of mental health issues alongside opioid use disorder.

For people concerned that they may be experiencing disordered eating, Fernandez-Turner there are some signs to look for and questions to ask themselves.

"When you're uncomfortable eating with others. Maybe you're hiding away your appearance, or maybe you're really uncomfortable with the way that you look, but to the extent, again, where you are pulling away form others and you're not able to be fully present with your family," said Fernandez-Turner.

In Bakersfield, Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services has programs designed specifically to help people with eating disorders. Interim Medical Services Administrator Ashley Jones says KBHRS has specialized staff training to ensure people are receiving the correct treatment.

"We offer specialized training for our staff to make sure that we can provide these services directly, and we also work really closely with community providers here locally to link people that are struggling with whatever's appropriate," said Jones.

Available services include therapy, intensive case management, access to a nutritionist, and both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.

Jones says friends and family can also be a good place to turn for those who already have a strong support system.

"It's really important that we as a community - family, friends, school systems - be compassionate with people that are struggling with eating disorders, and encourage them to be compassionate with themselves," said Jones.

That compassion is very much needed as the stigma connected to eating disorders continues to rise, and with stigma can come other consequences. About 26 percent of people who struggle with an eating disorder attempt suicide at some point.

Jones says eating disorders can be even more deadly since the signs that someone is suffering present more slowly than some other types of issues.

"It's not an illness or a violent act that would immediately acknowledge that this can result in death, but it can," said Jones.

If you're having a problem with eating, sleeping, thinking, staying engaged with life, or any other mental health issue in Kern County, the first step to getting the resources you need is to call the National Mental Health Hotline at 988. From there, specialists will be able to connect you to the correct local providers and support services.


National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 27 to March 5, 2023. It's a way to spread awareness about disordered eating, the different types of ED, and how prevalent ED is in the United States.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the most common eating disorders are binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa.

33.8 percent of Americans have been treated at some point for anorexia nervosa, while 43.2 percent have been treated for bulimia nervosa. 43.6 percent have been treated for binge eating disorder.

According to NIMH, women more often than men seek treatment for bulimia and binge eating, while men more often than women seek treatment for anorexia.