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Bringing attention to eating disorders

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which ends Saturday, aims to bring attention to medical disorders affecting one in five women, according to the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness.

National Eating Disorders Association, which created the week, organizes walks and events this time each year to help educate people and combat disorders like binge eating disorder (BED), anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

BED is characterized by recurrent sessions of binge eating and can cause high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes mellitus. According to, the disorder affects 1 to 5 percent of the population and is associated with signs of depression.

Anorexia – a form of self starvation – and bulimia – where a person has sessions of self-induced vomiting after eating – are more commonly thought of when discussing eating disorders, and both can be fatal.

Almost 1 percent of females suffer from anorexia, while 2.5 percent suffer from bulimia, said Dr. Pauline Powers, a physician and psychiatry professor at USF.

Powers said it’s not limited to young women. She said older women are becoming more common, and an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people suffering from anorexia or bulimia are male, according to

Powers is the director of the Hope House for Eating Disorders, an organization that operates under the College of Medicine and reaches out to those in the Tampa Bay area affected by eating disorders. This includes those who personally struggle with an eating disorder and people around them who want to help.

Medical students from USF and Ph.D students from Argosy University help at the organization, she said.

The house was founded three years ago with the help of a grant from the Davis Foundation. It is the first of its kind in the area, where Powers said there “hasn’t been enough treatment … and it’s urgently needed.”

She said doctors aren’t sure what causes the disorders – though biological causes and cultural influences are suspected – but the Hope House is there to help.

Three months ago, the organization began developing its own outpatient clinic, which will open in April. An open house about the new branch, which is already staffed, was held Tuesday.

Students who suffer from eating disorders, or know someone who does, can seek help from the Hope House, which is located at 2304 W. Cleveland St. Hotlines like 1-800-931-2237, for Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention (EDAP), are also available to help and answer questions.