PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --It is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. 30 million men and women will suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
According to a 2007 survey of Maine students, 46% of students were trying to lose weight, while only a quarter were overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
"If the numbers have changed since that time, the numbers have gone up and the age range has expanded."
Dr. Patrice Lockhart, MD is the Medical Director of Mercy Hospital's New England Eating Disorders (NEED) Program. Patients range in age, from 8 to 70, receiving treatment for Anorexia, Bulimia, binge-eating and other non-specified eating disorders.
"Most people don't know really if they're severely ill with an eating disorder or slightly ill with an eating disorder. Most people tend to underestimate it," Lackhart said. "But in the back of their minds they might have some worries."
Michelle Twomey suffered with Anorexia for 7 years before getting treatment at the NEED program.
"First time I walked into Mercy for my intake appointment, they couldn't find my pulse," said Twomey.
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa's cycle of self-starvation denies the body of essential nutrients it needs to function normally.
"I kept to myself. I wasn't social unless I had to be. I lied about what I had eaten. I would tell my parents, 'oh I ate a big lunch', I'm not hungry... Or make up excuses," she said.
Doctors say eating disorders are isolating, and so group therapy works best.
After treatment, "I gained the weight and I'm proud of it."
Had she known how supportive her family and friends would be, Twomey says she might have asked for help sooner.
"They knew something was up but they didn't know what to say. You just have to get past that your afraid to say the wrong thing and just go out and say I think you need help, I'm worried about you. Please stop hurting yourself."
If you would like to talk to someone from NEED about getting a patient assessment for youself or sombody else, call: 879-3795.
For more information about eating disorder symptoms and ways to get help, please visit