Eating Disorders can be deadly. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. (ANAD), eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

It's important to educate people about this disease. One way people do that is through media outlets, such as television programs, films, and music. These forms of expression should be taken as one's own interpretation of the eating disorder(s) he or she is discussing.

The brain and eating disorders

You cannot teach someone how to have an eating disorder.

It is a mental illness that can be triggered by different events or experiences, including in-person and through the media. Usually it's brought on by a traumatic incident, or constant feelings of pressure and self-hatred. However, not everyone is affected by the same thing or in the same way. There is a reason why one person watching a movie about anorexia is triggered and why another person is not.

According to ANAD, "genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder."

That person who is triggered already has a part of their brain that is letting the eating disorder take control. According to Science News for Students, "eating disorders may develop when levels of certain neurotransmitters become unbalanced." Brain scans have revealed that sometimes serotonin signals are not swapped properly in people with eating disorders.

According to Science News for Students, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be linked to other mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The eating behaviors start as a coping mechanism, and then develop into more of a pattern, causing the sufferer to constantly repeat the cycle.

What to look for

Some common warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders include: dramatic weight loss, a strong need for control, sleep problems, thinning of hair or fine hair, cuts and calluses on knuckles (a sign of self-induced vomiting), and constantly feeling cold.

It's pretty common for people to not even realize they have an eating disorder, especially if theirs doesn't classify as one of the more common ones, like anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. There is a wide array of these illnesses, including EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise stated), pica, chew and spit, and more.

Hearing someone else's story who is going through a similar experience can actually be helpful for those struggling with eating disorders. Sometimes it's easier to see a bad situation with others than with ourselves. This reality check, that can be brought on by different creative outlets, should not be discouraged.

Seeking help

Sometimes a sense of validation is needed for someone to know that his or her problem is important. This can be the motivation for someone to seek help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, check out NEDA for information on how to seek help.