GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and across the country, including Eastern North Carolina, experts are taking this time to educate the dangers it brings.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 28.8 million Americans will be impacted by this disorder at some point in their lives. Dr. Ashley Britton, a licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor said one big sign of this order is changes in eating habits.

“Either they’re eating a lot more than you’ve seen them eat in shorter bursts of time or all of a sudden they’re hardly eating anything,” Britton said. “They may even seem reluctant to eat in front of other people.”

Health officials say some common and well-known types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. Britton says oftentimes, eating disorders stem from the words of others.

“It typically starts with comments about someone’s body and they’re happening frequently enough to where that person then starts to feel insecure,” Britton said. “They ask themselves ‘What’s wrong with my body? Am I not eating enough? Am I eating too much? Am I fat?’, and so they start to develop a distorted view of themselves and their relationship with food.”

Lauren Smolar, the vice president of Mission and Education at the National Eating Disorders Association, said one of the main misconceptions of eating disorders is that it only affects women. She believes more research needs to be done so that certain gender and minority groups are not overlooked when it comes to diagnosing this problem.

“Traditionally the research has been done with women. Particularly white women and particularly young white women,” Smolar said. “So for anyone who doesn’t fall into that category, some of the evidence is also really lacking in terms of how effective treatment can be for those individuals.”

Smolar also said eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, with opioid use disorder being the highest.

For more information and resources on eating disorders, click here.