As some of you may well know, this week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. But unless, like me, you follow pages like Beat on Facebook, or you've got a close friend who regularly posts about this kind of stuff, this might be the first you've heard of it.

EDAW happens every single year and is just a week where people are encouraged to talk about eating disorders more than they usually would. While I'm a big believer of the fact that people should talk about these stigmatised issues whenever they want to, EDAW often gives people who are more hesitant an excuse to start opening up (this time last year was the first time that I publicly posted about my experiences). 

But why is awareness so important?

#SpoonTip: You can follow the hashtag #EDAW2018 on pretty much any social media you want to. 

1. It increases knowledge

Mun Ling Koh

It sounds a bit basic, but honestly, can you name any eating disorders that aren't anorexia or bulimia? Probably not. And neither could I, until I was diagnosed with one that didn't fit into either category. And that's not our fault — it's society's for branding eating disorders a topic that should be kept under wraps.

2. You know what to look out for

I often have people approaching me and asking what kind of symptoms should send alarm bells ringing if they're worried about their friends. I like to think that I know quite a bit about eating disorders, and because of this, I can give insight where perhaps it would otherwise be a little hazy. But once those asking for my help have this kind of awareness, they too, can spread their knowledge onto others.

Knowing what to look out for means that you can catch signs and symptoms of eating disorders in both the people around you and in yourself before it gets too serious. Before anyone knew that I was ill, people close to me would pick up on habits I had — even tease or argue with me about them — but they never thought about what my symptoms meant, partly because they didn't even realise that they were symptoms in the first place.

3. It decreases stigma

Often, stigma is the real killer when it comes to eating disorders. Speaking from personal experience, it took me years to get a diagnosis, largely due to the fact that the stigma of eating disorders silenced me for that long. If eating disorders had ever been talked about around me in anything other than hushed tones or distasteful jokes, perhaps I wouldn't have felt the stigma in such a pressing way.

4. It gives the message that sufferers are not alone

Heema Gokani

People who talk about eating disorders fall into two distinct categories: those who have/have had one, and those who are there for support. When you hear about people who have been through a similar situation as you, it can be such a relief. It lets you know that you're not alone, that your situation isn't hopeless and there's no way to describe how sufferers just understand each other. 

5. Non-sufferers talking makes a difference

Mun Ling Koh

As I mentioned in this blog post last year, people who open up conversations despite having never had an eating disorder make all the difference in the world. If healthy, able-bodied people can stand up and say "hey look, this is important" then maybe there will be less people like me who are speaking out only after years of hell; maybe there will be a bigger emphasis on prevention and less on treatment.

So go ahead, stop living under the taboos that we've grown up with and start talking in a way that can make a difference.

To find out more about EDAW, or if you suspect that you or someone you know has an eating disorder, visit Beat for further information.