BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The behavioral health specialists at Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services say that eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid addiction. With the number of people who struggle with disordered eating on the rise, KBHRS is encouraging people who need help to not be afraid to reach out.
Kern BHRS Supervisor Felicia Alcaraz says they primarily see young people, but that eating disorders can affect anyone of any age, gender, or body type.
“It looks different for everyone. For some, it could be whether it’s increased dieting, or for some it could be overly eating. It can be watching your weight to an extent that you’re hyperfocused on that diet, on what you’re eating and the calories you’re consuming,” said Alcaraz. “There is finding that healthy balance to keep you healthy and well, but then there’s that extremity on the other end.”
According to Alcaraz, 35 to 57 percent of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives, believing they need to take on these extremes in order to maintain control over their appearance, bodies, and lives.
Alcaraz adds that it is important for people to know that it is possible to have an eating disorder and not even realize it.
“When people do have an eating disorder, it’s the same as a substance abuse problem. They think they have it under control, but it’s normally outsiders that start to see that difference or start to see that [food] intake drastically change,” said Alcaraz. “People overly counting calories, minimizing the number of calories that they intake daily. It is possible that you could have an eating disorder and not really realize it.”
Kern BHRS offers an opportunity for people to consult with contracted eating disorder specialists to receive treatment recommendations, level-of-care recommendations, and other resources.
Alcaraz says they also have a care coordination unit that works with treatment providers to decide how best to handle each person’s case.
Another major part of taking care of your overall mental health, says Alcaraz, is to make an investment in self-care.
“It could be yoga. It could be meditation, mindfulness. It could be breathing techniques when you’re at work and you’re having a stressful day, and just taking that quick breath where you’re holding it in for 4 or 5 seconds and you’re breathing it out for 5 seconds,” said Alcaraz. “Those little things alone really do contribute to your self-care and wellness.”
Alcaraz says in addition to seeking professional guidance, having a support system at home is also beneficial to anyone seeking help.
“A lot of times family members see that their family member might be struggling with their weight or overly dieting, and there’s a lot of resources as well for families to be psychoeducational on that topic,” said Alcaraz. “We just want to make sure that everyone knows that there is help out there.”
For more information about eating disorders and available resources, you can also visit the National Eating Disorders Association website.
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